Lady Huskies headed to State

Stephanie Tolman

Regional tournament weekend was an intense couple days for the Burlington Lady Huskies and started with not only icy roads, but a broken-down bus.
“The Basin school’s transportation director, Doug Zierolf, saved our day by not only lending us a bus for the weekend but getting out of bed and bringing it to pick us up on the side of the road,” said Coach Erin Bassett. “We so appreciate their help.
“Between the icy roads and the unexpected hour wait, we were scrambling to get to our first game on time. We walked into the gym about three minutes before the official coin toss. Luckily the officials and other team were awesome and allowed us 10 more minutes of warm up.”
The Ladies Huskies faced off a tough Little Snake River team, losing in three, 18-25, 15-25, 17-25. “They are tough to defend against because not only do they have a good balance of hitters across the net, but they hit the ball on the perimeter really well. I think our girls really learned a lot through that game,” said Bassett.
The loss sent the Lady Huskies into the consolation bracket and into precarious positioning,  facing a much harder road starting with Encampment. “At our first practice of the season, the girls wrote down some of their goals and one was to make it to the state tournament,” said Bassett. “The first two sets were really close and our girls were working, but just couldn’t take the lead. Before the third set, we talked about how it was now or never and they finished really strong and won the final three sets.”
Final scores were 20-25, 24-26, 25-19, 25-18, 15-8.
Saratoga was the last team standing in the way of the Lady Huskies earning a place in the state tourney field. With two losses against them earlier in the season, Coach Bassett worried about how her team would handle the game. “They clearly came in with the right mindset,” she said. “They went to work and battled from the first whistle. Saratoga is a gritty team, they have a few deadly hitters and a little more experience than we have. We were able to pick up a lot of the tough ones and then hammer away at them. Our front row had their work cut out for them, but they shut their hitters down. Our back row did an awesome job of defending all weekend. They picked up a lot of balls and turned them into opportunities for us to attack.” 
Saratoga put up a tough fight, but the Lady Huskies prevailed in three, 25-22, 25-19, 28-26.
The win secured a state tourney berth, but Burlington still had to play Riverside in the third-place match. Riverside had beaten the Huskies in both regular season matchups and won the first two sets. “Then the consistency we have been striving for all year kicked in and our girls went to work — blocking, digging and attacking,” said Bassett. “Our block seemed to wear on their hitters and they started to roll shot us the ball more often. I was so proud of our girls for never backing down. We clearly didn’t run away from them on the scoreboard, but you could see it chip away at their confidence.
The Lady Huskies pulled off the win, beating Riverside in five: 13-25, 24-26, 25-23, 25-22, 15-13.
“My girls are tough and gritty, but they are also really nice girls. It was so good to see them support each other,” said Bassett. “Every single girl contributed to our success this weekend. Sometimes our bench players don’t get enough credit, they may not get a lot or any court time but they are there, every day in practice and at every game pushing our team to be better. We absolutely could not succeed without them.”
“Jessica Mendez and Hailee Winterholler filled in for us this weekend in some really big ways. They are prepared and ready all the time to step in and contribute when we need them. Hailee did an awesome job blocking for us and serving. She doesn’t normally play on the right side but she really did a solid job. Jessica has an awesome serve and used it effectively for us a few times. She’s another girl who can step in for any position in the back row and serve and defend. Sarah McNiven is such a powerhouse. When she gets up and kills the ball, it gets everyone’s attention. She is a valuable asset as a blocker as well, but one of her secret strengths is her attitude and perseverance. She doesn’t let trials or mistakes bring her down and she is the first to celebrate for her teammates and give them praise. Selena Call not only hustled all weekend as our setter, but had some really amazing attacks on the net as well as being a deadly server, as our only senior, she will be greatly missed next season.  Paxton Philpott is always an asset as a hitter, but she got even better this weekend. She is getting so smart about when and where to hit or how to find holes in their defense. She is also amazing as a defender in the back row-she gets balls up that you never would believe she could get to.  Naomi McNiven had an amazing tournament; she plays solid in every rotation and is great from the serving line as well. She consistently just goes to work and keeps things running for us. A lot of times, the glory comes in with the big hits, but they absolutely wouldn’t happen without the work Naomi puts in for us in the back row. Eve McNulty is a great libero; it’s a tough job to go in and get hit at, but she does it quietly and efficiently. We owe a lot of our success to her defense. Dalley Bassett is another low-key player for us that just puts in the work. She doesn’t do a lot of flashy things, just shows up consistently blocking, hitting, and cleaning up balls that come over the net. She is one of our most consistent servers and does her job.”
The Lady Huskies open state tournament play facing Southeast, the No. 2 seed from the East. It’ll be the 4:30 p.m. match today (Thursday, Nov. 2) on the 1A court at the Casper Events Center.