Netters are going to the Dance

Sonja Karp, NLJ Sports Editor

Photos by Nicole McFarland/NLJ

Above, McKenzie Rose sacrificed her body going for a dig in the Lady Dogies loser-out contest against Moorcroft on Saturday afternoon. Newcastle would sweep the Lady Wolves to punch their ticket to the state tournament this weekend.


The Lady Dogies punched their ticket to the Big Dance — otherwise known as the 3A State Volleyball Tournament — last weekend by taking third place at the 3A East Regional Tournament in Wheatland. 

From match one against Rawlins to their third place win over Buffalo, the Lady Dogies were there to play. 

“Everything really clicked for us this weekend,” Head Coach Mickey Crabtree began. “Hunter [McFarland] set the middles a lot, which made a huge difference getting Tiernan [Stanton] the ball more. We were placing the ball well, we got a lot of run throughs, we got so many touches at the net, we were getting the digs off those touches, and everything was really firing on all cylinders.” 

The Lady Dogies started their tournament pitted against the Rawlins Lady Outlaws, which was the first time the two teams met this season.

“It was the first time we’d seen them this year, but the girls came ready to compete,” Crabtree explained. “We talked a lot about their legacy, which started last week, and what they wanted to leave behind, so they showed up ready to play.”

Crabtree went on to state that the team watched a little bit of film last week, but were really just focused on making sure they worried about what was going on on their side of the net, to play their game at their pace, and do what they could control. 

It turned out that maintaining focus on themselves was just the ticket, as the Lady Dogies pretty handily defeated the Lady Outlaws in three sets, 25-11, 25-17 and 25-19.

The win set Newcastle up to play Wheatland in the semi-final contest at 5 on Friday evening. Wheatland was the No. 1 team in the Southeast quadrant, ranked third in the state, and they defeated Newcastle just a couple of weeks ago — plus they were playing on their home court. 

Despite all of these challenges, the Lady Dogies gave the Lady Bulldogs everything they could handle in the five-set loss.

“I really thought we had them, and I think the whole crowd did,” admitted Crabtree. “But in that game, we struggled with the consistency piece of putting together a run of points, and they are a great team with a lot of talent.”

“However, we also have a lot of talent,” she continued. “If we get to see them next weekend, I hope the girls go in with a chip on their shoulder and take it from them.”

The Lady Dogies had Wheatland on their heels in the first three sets. They came out blazing and took set one, 25-21, with the Bulldogs making a late-game surge to close the gap. Newcastle then lost the second set 22-25, but turned around to take the third 25-18. 

In set four, Crabtree’s crew stumbled a bit, just long enough to give Wheatland the advantage, which they used to tie up the match, winning 25-12. Then in the fifth and deciding set, the Lady Bulldogs used their momentum to take the win 15-7.

“We really played well,” Crabtree said. “But you can’t give a team like Wheatland any room to make a run and expect things to turn out well.”

The loss sent Newcastle into the loser-out game on Saturday afternoon against Moorcroft. The Lady Wolves had taken Douglas to five sets in their opening match-up and defeated Torrington in the first loser-out contest on Saturday morning. 

“The girls went into it feeling good,” Crabtree described. “I think we were all a little nervous, but we knew we just had to go in and play our game — and the girls showed up and got the job done.”

The squad elevated their already high level of play from Friday to Saturday and made it clear early and often that Moorcroft had no business being on the other side of the net. The front line put up a wall and as a team scored 14 points on blocks, with Stanton racking up four solo blocks and contributing on five block assists.

The combination of great defense and a solid and aggressive offense led to the three-set victory, 25-14, 25-13 and 25-15, which secured the Lady Dogies a state tournament berth.

“They really put everything together in that game,” Crabtree said. “It’s awesome to see that they are not only capable, but they are putting things together at the right time.”

All that was left was to decide seeding for the state tournament, which meant a third- and fourth-place contest remaining against Buffalo.

“We very quickly turned our attention to next week and what we need to do,” Crabtree said. “We weren’t done and wanted to get the third seed so we wouldn’t have to see the first seed from the West in the quarterfinals at state.”

The Lady Dogies and Lady Bison split during the season with Buffalo taking the late-season win over Newcastle in four sets. 

As the match began, it didn’t take long for everyone watching to see that Newcastle had a lot more intensity and urgency than did the Lady Bison as the Lady Dogies cruised to easy wins in the first two sets, 25-12 and 25-17, then came from behind to win the third set 25-23.

“In the first two sets, it was 6-0 and Michelle [Dahlberg] had to call an early timeout,” Crabtree explained. “We stepped up to the plate and never relaxed, which was great.”

The win has the Lady Dogies pitted against Lyman, who finished second on the west side, at 6 p.m. on Thursday evening at the Ford Center in Casper. The Lady Eagles are coming into the tournament with a 31-5-1 record, so they will be a challenging opponent for Newcastle. 

“We’ll watch some film this week just to get an idea of how they play, but we’re really just going to focus on us and doing what we can do,” Crabtree said. “They’ll be tough, but if we show up and take care of the things we can control, I really think we can beat any team in the state right now.”

The Lady Dogies will have Wheatland and Worland on their side of the bracket, so one of those teams will be their second opponent of the weekend.


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