TORRINGTON, Wyo. — When classes resumed on Monday, the members of the Torrington High School volleyball team still found it hard to believe that they just won the school’s first state championship in the sport of volleyball.
It certainly is a reality after the Trailblazers rallied for a thrilling five-set win over Star Valley in the championship match of the 3A state tournament on Saturday in Casper.
“The kids came into school today and still couldn’t believe it. I told them to believe it because they really did it,” Torrington coach Lori Byrd said. “They should be very proud. To be part of a history-making team like this is a great accomplishment. They did a great job.”
The state championship capped off a perfect run through the postseason for the Blazers. Torrington won all six of its matches during the postseason.
It started with three wins in the 3A East Regional Tournament, which the Blazers won after knocking off defending state champion Douglas in five sets. Torrington only picked up steam from there as the Blazers blew past Lyman in three sets in the opening round of the state tournament. After dropping the first set against Powell in the semifinals on Friday night, Torrington stormed back to win that match in four to advance the Blazers into the final for the first time in 33 years.
“We peaked at the right time,” Byrd said. “I thought we started peaking last week when we beat Douglas in the regional championship. After beating Douglas, the kids came to the conclusion that they were a good team and that they could do this. They just seemed to play even better during the state tournament.”
In the championship, Byrd said her squad played its best volleyball of the season. Torrington twice rallied from a one-set deficit in the match before holding off a furious Star Valley comeback attempt in the deciding set.
“After the first set I told the kids that they were just as good as Star Valley. They just had to go out there and play their ball. They did that,” Byrd said. “The fifth set was a battle, but the kids just hung on. I took a timeout at 12-11 and told them they need to take a deep breath, relax, and that they could do it.”
Senior Shai Schaefer, who compiled double-digit kill totals in all three matches at state, hammered down 23 kills in the championship. She ended the tournament with 63 kills, including 23 each in the semifinals and final.
Schaefer was one of four Blazers to record triple-doubles as she also finished with 12 service points, 19 digs and six blocks. Avery Madden put down 22 kills to go with 11 points, 20 digs and three blocks. Sydney Harms finished with 24 points, 20 assists and 10 digs, while Christian Bila had 19 points, 27 assists and 14 digs. Taylor Frazier and Murphy Haun ended with double-doubles. Frazier served 18 points and totaled 10 digs, while Haun finished with 11 points and 23 digs. Also for Torrington, Kailee Adams contributed three kills and a pair of digs.
Expectations for success were set high by the Blazers from the very beginning of the season as five starters returned from last year’s 21-15 team. Torrington was making its third straight appearance in the state tournament all under Byrd, who just completed her third season coaching the Blazers.
“I knew when I took these kids over that there was something special there,” Byrd said. “These kids are just special. There’s no drama and there’s no arguing. They all just want everybody to do well. That’s the best part about it.”
While the Blazers will have to replace their four highly productive seniors of Schaefer, Frazier, Bila and Harms, Byrd said a good nucleus of talented players will be returning.
“The kids are excited about volleyball here,” Byrd said. “Avery will be back for us bigger and stronger next year, and then we’ll just have to build from there. We’re going to have to find two people to fill those setter shoes. We’ve got some good hitters coming back, but the setter position is what we’re really going to have to work on this summer.”
Torrington finished the season with a record of 25-8.