Lady Panthers look to punch ticket to state

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When it comes regional tournament time, there’s a saying in Wyoming high school volleyball: win two before you lose two.

That will be the goal of the Powell Lady Panthers Friday and Saturday as they make the trip to Uinta County to compete at the Class 3A West regional at Mountain View High School. The top four teams in the eight-team, double-elimination tourney will advance to the WHSAA Class 3A State Volleyball Championships next week in Casper.

PHS head coach Randi Bonander is optimistic as she looks toward the weekend.

“The girls have been working hard all season to try and fill all the roles that needed to be filled,” coach Bonander said. “I feel like the win at the end of the season against Lovell really completed that for us. Each girl [has] different roles and they have multiple roles, but they know that they have to be talking all the time, they have to be passing the ball and they have to serve agressive for us to win. The one other thing we’re really going to work on this week is defense. I think if we can do all those things — we are definitely two wins away and we’ll be going to state next weekend.”

Powell (17-12-1), the No. 5 team in last week’s WyoPreps.com coaches and media poll, won the 3A Northwest quadrant with a 6-0 record to earn one of the regional’s two No. 1 seeds. The Lady Panthers open regional play Friday at 1:30 p.m. against winless Big Piney.

“Big Piney is a scrappy team,” coach Bonander said. “They do not give up, no matter what the scoreboard says. It’s one of those games where we’ve got to play our game and keep it at that throughout the whole match.”

The winner of that contest will play either Lander Valley or host Mountain View in the semifinals at 5:30 p.m. on Friday. The winner of that contest earns one of the regional’s four state tournament berths and a chance to play for the regional title Saturday at 4:30 p.m., while the loser plays Saturday at noon. The winner of that game earns a state tournament berth, while the loser’s season is over.

“We’ve played Lander twice and beat them both times, so I feel like we have a good handle on them,” coach Bonander said. “Mountain View, we played at conference duals and we lost to them, but we played really well at times — and I feel like now that we’ve got our strong rotation set [and] our lineup set for the tournament, I think we can definitely get a win against Mountain View.”

Getting one of the four state berths at regionals won’t be easy for Powell. Lyman — who the Lady Panthers played to a 1-1 tie at the Rawlins Invite in September — is the top-ranked team in Class 3A, while Mountain View is tied for third and Pinedale has been ranked at times this season.

“I feel like if we make it to state, we really won’t come up against any other team that’s tougher than what we’ve already seen this year in our region,” coach Bonander said. “Then it’s just about coming together, playing as a team and playing one match a a time.”

Powell senior Hartly Thorington is confident that the Lady Panthers can navigate the tough regional field at Mountain View.

“They have some really good hitters and some really good defenses, [but] we can beat them,” Thorington said. “We’ve beaten Pinedale in a couple of sets and we’ve beaten Lyman in one set during pool play at one of our tournaments.”

PHS senior Aubrie Stenerson said the Lady Panthers are also motivated by the desire to wash away the bad taste of losing in regionals each of the two previous seasons.

“I feel really motivated knowing that the past two years we haven’t been able to go [to state], losing to the same team [Pinedale] twice in a row,” Stenerson said. “We’ve been playing together since our whole lives pretty much, so I feel like we have it in ourselves [to go to state].”

And that long history together is another motivating factor, as Powell’s nine seniors — many of whom have played together since childhood — want to end their high school careers on a high note.

“We’ve been playing [together] since some of us [were in] fourth grade at club,” Thorington said. “Just making these last memories with each other before we all go our separate ways — it’ll be really fun to share these moments with these other girls.”

PHS senior Rachel Bonander echoed Thorington’s sentiments.

“It’s kind of sad to be honest,” she said. “But also it is kind of motivating to want to go to state and make it all the way — and make it the most memorable year.”

Notes: All 3A West regional games will be streamed on YouTube via mylocalradio.com, giving local residents who cannot make the trip to Mountain View a chance to view the games. With a smart TV, Roku or Apple TV, the games can also be viewed on one’s television. ... Meanwhile, in the 3A East regional, just two teams — Douglas (25-6) and Rawlins (26-4) have winning records. The Lady Panthers defeated Douglas 21-13, 21-15 at the Rawlins Invite before later losing to host Rawlins 21-10, 21-8.

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