Junior Emmery Wagstaff and the rest of the Lady Red Devils were unable to capture their first home win and took their fourth straight loss overall against Star Valley on Wednesday night. Wagstaff finished with nine kills and a team-high 14 digs. Sophomore Aspen Anderson and senior Hannah Sharp, the team leader with six blocks on the night, jump to try and block a ball during Wednesday night’s match against Star Valley. Star Valley’s front line ended up getting the better of Evanston’s and the Braves went on to take the match in four sets. (HERALD PHOTOS/Zac Zdanowicz)
EVANSTON — The Lady Red Devils (9-7) faced a tough task Wednesday night, taking on a Star Valley team that had only dropped one game so far this season, coming in at 10-1.
In Evanston’s third attempt in less than a week, the Lady Red Devils came up short in securing their first home victory of the season Wednesday night.
Evanston dropped their fourth straight overall and their third straight home game to the Braves in four sets (21-25, 25-15, 19-25, 19-25).
The 3A Star Valley Braves came out of the chutes quickly, taking a 17-9 lead in the first set. Athletically up front, Star Valley seemed superior, blocking or returning most Evanston kill attempts and slamming down numerous kills at the outset of the match.
The Red Devils crept back into the match though, using some huge blocks of their own by the front line to bring the game within a point, 22-21.
The momentum the Devils created shifted in a hurry and Star Valley took the next three points to win the first set 25-21.
The front line blocking from the Devils had been inconsistent and even sometimes nonexistent in their previous two conference games at home against Kelly Walsh and Natrona. The blocking got them back into the game in the first set and played a huge role in their second set win, but it wasn’t what impressed head coach Tera Lawlar the most on Wednesday.
“I’ve got to give them credit. Star Valley is a great team, probably the best Star Valley team they’ve had in 18 years. I like that we had fight; I would have loved to have a win but I was scared prior to the match of what team would come out and I should have known better because this team has guts and they work hard. I’m proud of what came out (tonight) and we’ll get it figured out,” Lawlar said.
Some of the scores may not indicate it, but the Lady Red Devils definitely played with more enthusiasm and seemed to play with more passion than they did against the two Casper schools and that’s something Lawlar is proud of.
Evanston used the momentum they caught at the end of set one to come out and take set two by 10 points, 25-15.
Between set one and two, the Red Devils changed from a 6-2 offense to a 5-1 offense, something they had worked on the previous two days in practice.
They made a few mistakes in the new offense, but Lawlar is hoping to see some girls step up and take hold of some of the positions now.
“We did a lot of lineup changes and lots of personnel switches. There was some confusion and that’s on me. Just trying to see what we can do and trying to get them as many opportunities as possible before our next conference match,” Lawlar said. “There’s definitely some pros and cons and what I and the coaching staff are waiting on is to see a few kids really step up and claim some of those open positions. So then we can decide what kind of offense works best with those kids, but the way we are interchanging players so much, I’m just hoping to get some consistency from our players.”
With the 5-1, they get an extra defender in the back row to help them, but the 5-1 offense will cause setter Hailey Barker to play front row and try to help block and then have to transition to offense quickly.
Not a simple strategy, but it could ultimately be the best for this team.
After Star Valley took the third set 25-19, the two teams battled back and forth in the fourth set.
No team was able to pull away and it was tied up for most of the match, until the set was tied at 16-16 and the Braves took three straight points from the Devils.
From there, Star Valley was able to take advantage of some Devil miscues and take the set 25-19.
“I have to give (our girls) credit. That Natrona game [last weekend] was an all-time low. We were able to come back and not be gun-shy and we were talking.”
With Evanston still trying to work out some offensive kinks, it’s probably the wrong time to play a superior and athletic team such as Star Valley, but they believe they can get right, according to one player.
“I think we improved today — from the Kelly Walsh and Natrona games. I think we’re just going to keep getting better,” senior Kaytlen Freeland said. “We definitely need to improve our defense, blocking-wise. I think a lot of balls got through our blocks so if we improve on that it’ll help.”
Evanston will head to Star Valley on Saturday for a tournament, where they will play five games which will help them iron out some defensive and offensive issues they still have.
After Saturday’s tournament, the Lady Red Devils will return home to face Rock Springs on Tuesday.