Showing great determination, the Wood River High School varsity volleyball team battled back from the brink of elimination Tuesday in the Great Basin Conference West tournament at Jerome High School gym.
The #2-seeded Wolverines (22-17) dropped the first two games of their loser-out match against the fired-up #3-seeded Burley Bobcats (6-12) and seemed primed to go home early when they fell behind 20-18 in the third game.
Co-coach Tim Richards called time. He said, "I told the girls it wasn't my choice to have the season end. I suggested we play our best volleyball, one game at a time to get back in it. We decided we were going to pass the ball to the target and swing away. And that's what we did."
Wood River beat Burley for the fourth time this season 24-26, 14-25, 26-24, 25-21, 16-14 in a down-to-the-wire match that might have exhausted any other team. Then the Wolverines came back and did it again against top-seeded Jerome (18-6). The strong-hitting Tigers had been unbeaten in league play in 2005.
Richards said, "The girls played their hearts out. We got good swings and served very tough. Jerome was definitely sweating it."
Challenging the Hailey girls to win three games in a row like they did to eliminate Burley, Richards saw his Wolverines rally back again from a first-game loss to Jerome and beat the Tigers in the first championship match 14-25, 27-25, 25-15, 25-11.
"We were pounding Jerome," said Richards.
The Wolverines forced a deciding match of the double elimination tournament. This time, Jerome led by its powerful hitter Ali German clinched the 2005 Great Basin West title and an automatic berth in the State 4A tourney at Post Falls Oct. 28 by scores of 26-24, 25-20, 25-14.
It was the second straight year that Wood River came out of the loser bracket of the Great Basin tournament to win the first championship match, then settled for second place with a loss in the decider.
Richards said, "There were a couple of little turning points," in the form of questionable calls against Wood River in the first and second games that ended up with the coach getting a red card from the referee.
Overall, Richards said referring to Jamie Stone and Hannah Richards, "Our two seniors were awesome. They probably touched 70% of the balls. Kelsey (Lidstrom) was consistent with her swing, Hannah Gove was our serving leader and Leah (McIlhenny) played a nice match."
Wood River sought to extend its season Thursday with an intra-district playoff game against Preston (14-5) at Century High School in Pocatello. Preston defeated Pocatello in three games but lost 25-22, 25-23, 25-13 to Fifth District champion Century (34-8) in the 4A Fifth District tournament.
Preston ended Wood River's season last fall in the same playoff scenario.
With a win over Preston Thursday, Wood River would return to Pocatello Saturday, Oct. 22 for a 12:30 p.m. state play-in match against the Idaho Falls area runner-up team.