The Lady Red Devils take a time out during a recent match. HERALD PHOTO/Mark Madia
RIVERTON — Red Devils volleyball continues to roll. As reported in the Sept. 28 issue of the Herald, Evanston swept Lyman in three sets, with the first two, closely contested, and Evanston jumping out early in the third. That win represented their eighth win in a row, if pool play matches from the Star Valley Invitational Tournament are factored in. Evanston made it nine consecutive on Saturday in Riverton, and ran their 4A West Conference mark to a perfect 6-0, in eighth in a three-set win against the Lady Wolverines — 25-23, 25-22, 25-23.
“Outside of Bonneville, Idaho,” coach Tera Lawlar said of the team who went undefeated in the Cokeville Tournament, “Riverton has as much balance as any team we have faced. At this time, we feel they’re the second best team in our conference, or at least our toughest match-up.”
Back to Lyman. The Lady Eagles have a new coach, with the retirement of longtime and Hall of Fame coach Louise Kennedy. Assistant Layne Parmenter, a Kennedy assistant, took the reins of the program.
Evanston’s mantra could easily be “To get better each time out.” Conference wins and losses do carry more weight, as they are a means of jockeying for position in seeding for postseason play, and are approached as such, but still “to get better,” is still part of the equation. Evanston knew Lyman would be competitive, but was able to implement some new elements and schemes, which they had finally had the time to work on in practice, to experiment somewhat against the Eagles, as the outcome, win or lose, would have little bearing on Evanston’s season in the big picture.
Uinta County bragging rights were all that was really on the line. Lawlar was impressed with the play of Lyman’s Taylor Limoges.
“She’s really developed into a nice player with a quick arm swing,” Lawlar said.
Evanston had three solid days of practice following Tuesday’s match up with Lyman, which Lawlar described as “intense and focused,” in preparation for Saturday morning’s early bus trip to Riverton, jumping right back into conference competition. They finally had time to address a lot of random little pieces, with focus on their middle blockers. Those efforts paid dividends in Riverton, according to the coach, in what she terms can very well be the most difficult position to play, and often times the least rewarding or glorified position.
Lawlar praised two of her middles, Meghan Cranford and Hailey O’Neill. If the middles work hard and “sell it,” it makes life easier and frees up the outside hitters, like Kortney Freeland and Kensie Herold, enabling them to do what they do best and attack, along with creating advantageous one-on-one match-ups for Evanston.
Evanston prefers to play up-tempo and served quickly. Red Devils volleyball had seen and defeated every member of the 4A West Conference, including two wins over Green River, but had not met Riverton, which Lawlar believes may be targeting the sport as the one to build as a dominant program around, perhaps at the expense of basketball, where Riverton girls are opting to play club volleyball and forego the other hardwood offering.
Not having seen Riverton, the coaching staff believed the Lady Wolverines were better than their 3-3 conference mark represented — “very experienced with exceptional balance and a scrappy team,” Lawlar explained, which also serves very well. Despite losing the 4A Player of the Year to graduation, in Hannah Svilar, Lawlar knew Riverton boasted seven seniors.
“They’re scary,” the coach stated. “I’m not really looking forward to playing them again.”
But that’s just what Evanston will do on Saturday, with Riverton making the reciprocal trip. Evanston now knows that they’re a very big team, height-wise, which Evanston will attempt to counter with specialized strategies. Evanston had to come from behind at some point in every set against Riverton, which further illustrates their mental toughness, maturity and confidence in themselves as a team.
In between the two matches with Riverton, Rock Springs comes to town for the second conference meeting between the two schools this afternoon and evening, Tuesday, Oct. 2, with freshmen, sophomores, junior varsity and varsity all getting in on the act, scheduled for 3 to 6 p.m., on the hour. Saturday’s schedule has top of the hour starts beginning at 11 a.m., and continuing until the varsity showdown at 2 p.m. The freshman and sophomore teams lost to Riverton in two games, while the JV and varsity notched wins.
While a seasonal conference sweep of both Rock Springs and Riverton would be a notable accomplishment, as long as the team competes and does indeed get better, regardless of the outcome, is what Lawlar and her staff would like to see. They also have a tough trip to Casper still to come on Oct. 12 and 13.
The end goal, however, remains the same: to be the first Red Devils team to hang a state title banner for volleyball in the Red Devils’ gym. They want to get better so that each time out, the team is moving closer to that goal. It doesn’t matter so much how well a team is playing in the beginning or middle parts of the season. The hope is to be playing their best brand of team volleyball in the regional and state tournaments in late October.
Rich County has also been on a tear through the 1A ranks in Utah. The Herald incorrectly reported the Lady Rebels had swept five of their conference opponents in the Uinta Basin in one weekend, on the road, when that took place at Rich. That trip takes place on Oct. 12 and 13. The Lady Rebels, ranked number one in Utah’s 1A classification, have not lost since Aug. 25, when they were defeated by Bonneville, Idaho in the Cokeville Tournament, and have strung together nine consecutive.
There’s some top-notch volleyball played in this region, and with Evanston, Mountain View, Lyman and Rich combined, just think of the caliber of a squad which could take the floor, with great depth, as well, and they’d still be much smaller, in terms of enrollment, than most of the 4A schools Evanston competes against.