The Thunderhawks hosted the Lemmon Cowgirls and Newell Lady Irrigators in a volleyball triangular in LaPlant on Sept. 15.
Up first was Tiospaye Topa vs. Lemmon. The Cowgirls established a lead from the very beginning, but the Tunderhawks stayed close. When Pamela Meeter registered a kill, it was if they poked the bear. The Cowgirls took off on a 15 to 3-point run to put Tiospaye Topa in a major hole, 8-24. However, with finesse and some luck, our Thunderhawks scored the next five points to make a respectable showing before the Cowgirls closed out the first set with a win, 13-25.
The Cowgirls did not let up in the second set either. They quickly had the Thunderhawks down 3-6 before Autumn Rose Sansosti had a great dig in the backline to get Tiospaye Topa back within two points.
Then the two teams traded points until K’Launa Buffalo dove for a slam by the Cowgirls as if she was diving from the Hwy 212 bridge to get all 10s from the judges! She kept the ball up for her team to score, 8-10. After the crowd appreciated the athletic performance of Buffalo, the Cowgirls reloaded and went on another 15 to 1 run to win the second set, 9-25.
The third set started off with Leilani Bowker stuffing her opponent to put the first point on the board for LaPlant and an ear-to-ear smile on Bowker’s face. The great defensive play helped the Thunderhawks get a 3-1 lead, but Lemmon soon tied it back up and then started pulling away. The power of the Cowgirls kept the pressure on our Thunderhawks and the Cowgirls once more secured a commanding lead, 11-23.
The Thunderhawks didn’t give up though. Ashlynn Charger had a great dig. Meeter was keeping balls up in the air. Bowker continued to challenge shots up at the net. Kayleigh White Owl was hustling all over the place. And Buffalo was on fire flying all over the court to do whatever she could to answer the Cowgirls threat. Thus, when the team finally regrouped, they put their own 4-point run together. But it came too late, and the Cowgirls went on to win the set and match, 15-25.
The second match was between the Lemmon Cowgirls (2-2) and Newell Irrigators (9-0). It was a great match because the Cowgirls showed off their power and the Irrigators showed why they are undefeated.
The Irrigators came from seven points down to win the first set, 25-22. The Cowgirls tightened up their defense to push out to an 8-point lead and hold off the Irrigators to get their first win of the match, 22-25. Then again after falling seven points down the Irrigators made a late game surge and won the third set, 26-24. In the fourth set, the Cowgirls crushed the Irrigators and beat them, 12-25.
The tiebreaker (which is played to 15 points and must be won by two) was the best set of the match. Both teams traded punch for punch and the Irrigators landed the final blow to win the set and match, 21-19.
The final match of the evening was between Tiospaye Topa and Newell. The Irrigators, still flying high after their big comeback win over the Cowgirls, came out super-hot. They had our Thunderhawks down 8-0, before they made a serving error to give the ball to Tiospaye Topa.
Tiospaye Topa got the next two points, but the Irrigators stepped up their offensive power and pushed out their lead to 4-14, before Meeter registered a kill and Bowker spanked in an ace, 6-14. After that it was all the Irrigators, until Bowker stuffed Newell’s big 6ʹ1ʺ middle hitter to make the score 10-24.
There was one more moment of glory for our Thunderhawks when Sansosti tallied a kill on the very next point. However, being one point away from a win, the last ball fell in Newell’s favor, and they won the first set, 11-25.
The second set belonged to the Irrigators, and they won it, 8-25. The Thunderhawks came out better to start the third set with Bowker getting a kill shot to make the score 1-3. Tying it up at 3-all, Tiospaye Topa fought hard to stay tied, and they did on Buffalo’s ace, 5-all.
The Irrigators tried to take over, but Bower banged in another kill from the backline to keep it close, 7-11. From there Newell went on a 9 to 2 run to push out their lead to 11-20. Bowker tried her best to answer with one more kill – 12-20 – but it wasn’t enough and the Irrigators won this set and match, 15-25.
Our Thunderhawks showed a lot of grit in their two matches in this triangular, and acting head coach Cassie Hill said she knows they will get better as the season goes along. She added, “This is going to be a good year and the girls have improved a lot from last year.”
A big reason for such optimism is the addition of transfer sophomore K’Launa Buffalo. This 5ʹ7ʺ young player was a demon on the floor. She was all over the court chasing balls, diving after shots, jump-serving with authority, and cheering on her teammates. She showed she has a ton of “ball sense.” She is seasoned well beyond her age; plays with reckless abandonment; and acts like a field general on the floor.
In an interview, Buffalo said, “We could have played better but with more work we will. We’ve been working hard and there are things we need to improve on to be better. I know our frustration will be turn around and we will get better.”