CASPER — As with all statistics, sometimes a win and loss record doesn’t tell the full story. The Herald published the 4A West Conference volleyball standings in our Tuesday, Oct. 9, issue. Updated, conference-only standings are below, and reflect Green River’s win over Rock Springs Oct. 10, and Kelly Walsh besting NC Oct. 9
• Evanston — 8-0. Plays at Natrona on Friday evening and at Kelly Walsh Saturday afternoon
• Kelly Walsh — 6-2. Hosts Green River Friday evening and Evanston Saturday afternoon
• Riverton — 4-5. Plays at Rock Springs Friday.
• Green River — 3-5. Plays at Kelly Walsh Friday evening and at Natrona Saturday afternoon
• Natrona County — 2-6. Hosts Evanston Friday evening and hosts Green River Saturday afternoon
• Rock Springs — 2-7. Hosts Riverton on Friday and plays at Laramie (non-conference) on Saturday
To further the point we’re attempting to make, only to then disprove it, it should be known that Evanston is ranked third in the latest WyoPreps.com Coaches and Media Poll, and Kelly Walsh rounds out the top-five. Couple the Lady Trojans’ superior conference record with their fifth place ranking in the 4A division, and the fact they are second in the standings, the deduction would be KW is the team to beat and presents the bigger challenge, not NC, right? Not so fast.
Match-ups can trump stats and even records. Coach Tera Lawlar and her staff realize they will receive both Casper schools’ best efforts, as Evanston is conference leader, and the Fillies and Lady Trojans will be playing before their hometown faithful.
But while most may look at the match-up between the ranked teams, Evanston’s first opponent, and really, the only foe they’re focusing on in the one-game-at-a-time approach they subscribe to, is Natrona. The Fillies are the only conference team who took Evanston to five games before the outcome was decided. They also did so with Kelly Walsh before bowing to their rival this week. They have the personnel, and again, perhaps “matchup” with Evanston, better than the ranked Lady Trojans.
If Evanston wins Friday, Kelly Walsh can’t catch them, even with a KW win over Evanston on Saturday. Yes, unfathomable as it may be to comprehend, KW will be cheering for NC.
“It would be a great feeling and a wonderful accomplishment,” Lawlar told the Herald of a potential perfect 10-0 run-through of the 4A West. But the coach is steadfast in her desire for her team to be playing their very best volleyball at the end of October and not during the middle of the month.
“Not that we ever play to lose,” she explained, “but if we were to drop one on this road swing, better now than at state. It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world and may serve as a reminder, although they would be devastated, and it would be our job as coaches to ensure they’re not second-guessing themselves, if it happens. And I truly don’t believe a reminder that they’re not untouchable is needed with this group.”
It goes back to getting better as a team every time they take the court, and not putting too much pressure on themselves.
“If we’re playing as hard as we can, to the best of our ability, if we should stumble, I can accept that,” Lawlar explained. “If it’s because we did not anticipate how good Natrona can be, that’s not acceptable. But we as coaches really don’t anticipate this team losing focus. They’re too knowledgeable.”
The coach continued.
“We talk about what needs to be done,” she said, “but not the implications if we should fall short. We talk about jumping to 9-0, not finishing the conference undefeated. The only future factor we talk about is breakfast — where we will eat and what.”
The coach believes her savvy team understands and won’t lose sight of the big picture and their goal since the season’s beginning.
“At the same time, I know this means a great deal to this team,” Lawlar said. “They know what’s at stake. They may talk of future possibilities in a casual manner outside of practice, but in practice they’re solely focused on the next step, which brings them closer to the end goal.”
The coach can see the rigors of the season are taking a bit of a toll on her team, in terms of their overall energy level, but understands it’s the same boat every team is in.
“I’m just impressed with their level of commitment and accomplishment,” she noted. “To focus as they do all day in school, and carry the grade point averages they do, and then to come in and give our coaching staff 2.5 hours of focus.... We’re asking an awful lot, but they deliver.”
Lessons were learned by players and coaches alike, from last year’s team, which did not have the ending they believed they should have, and were capable of having. “We learned a lot from last year,” Lawlar asserted. “With Kortney’s injury getting worse as we went into the regional tournament, it affected not only our line-ups, but our team chemistry and confidence. It was hard on everybody, on Kortney, who couldn’t give any more, as much as she desired to, her teammates trying to fill the void, and for us as coaches.”
The team has employed a “pre-hab” philosophy in 2012. Lawlar elaborates. “Instead of worrying about rehabbing, after injuries happen, we have taken a proactive, preventative approach. It involves making sure we’re eating well, getting a good night’s sleep and icing down sore muscles to prevent injury, rather than being reactive, and rehabbing once an injury has taken place. We’ve been pre-habbing since two-a-days. I think it has paid dividends and will continue to, as the girls enter the winter sports seasons, too.”
Her team is not 100 percent healthy, with Kensie Herold the biggest concern. The cool action shot from Heather Gifford which appeared in the Herald with the “Super Herold” headline brought a lot of excitement and joy to not only Herold, but her supportive teammates, too. Herold did injure her shoulder from that hard fall, though, stretched out and prone to a hard landing, with her body parallel to the floor, but she has been taking care of herself. Hailey O’Neill may have said it best, expressing the sentiment of this team, “I’m so proud of us.”
To the best of Lawlar’s knowledge, no Evanston volleyball team has enjoyed a perfect 10-0 conference season. Her state runner-up squad of 2009, led by standouts Kelsie Thornock and Erin Kirby came close, finishing 9-1, and that team’s influence is still a guiding inspiration. Hopefully, this 2012 edition can honor the 2009 bunch, and teams in between, by achieving a first for the program, Evanston High School, and for the community, by “finishing the job,” and hanging a very special banner in the gym. It begins in earnest, now. Game on.