When things seemed to be in the tank Monday night, when the situation seemed dire, senior Hanna Gustafson wasn't going to let Wood River High School lose a volleyball match.
Gustafson pounded six of her team-high 12 kills in the 18-16 decisive game including the game winner as Wood River dug itself out of a deep hole and nipped the Burley Bobcats 25-18, 25-9, 20-25, 16-25, 18-16.
Wood River coach Tim Richards said, "Hanna just wanted it. She knew it was time to step up, and she did. It was a well played match all around."
Action took place in the championship semi-final of the four-team Great Basin Conference West tournament played at the Hailey high school gym. It looked like an easy Wood River win after the first two games. Burley battled back and the outcome went to the wire.
It was an important match because the winner would need only one more victory to capture the GBW championship and earn a berth in the State 4A tournament Oct. 31 in Idaho Falls. And the loser would have to win three matches Tuesday night in Hailey to take the title.
Last October Wood River and Burley played three memorable matches in the GBW finals at Burley before the Wolverines prevailed in five.
The two rivals filled with seniors were butting heads and trading punches again Monday.
Gustafson said, "We always call Burley the 'scrappy team.' They just wouldn't let the ball drop and that's what got them back into the game. But really, it shouldn't have gone that far. We lost confidence in each other until the coaches reminded us to be confident.
"Our team played with heart. And so did Burley."
Wolverine coach Richards said he tried to play senior Angela Coleman (knee injury) sparingly, mostly on the serving stripe in the first two games. Junior outside hitter Ellen Johnson (10 kills) stepped in and did a good job replacing versatile co-captain Coleman.
And, with Burley having trouble with its serving plus slow-footed woes on defense, WRHS broke away for easy wins in the first two games.
That all changed in the third game. Burley senior Carli Parish (10 kills) and junior Teresa Wayment (12 kills, 8 blocks) started taking the net away from host Wood River and the 'Cats stayed alive 25-20.
Burley's best player is senior Molly Mills (14 kills, 15 winning serves including 3 aces). Mills served the 'Cats to a 5-0 lead in the fourth game, which caused coach Richards to summon Coleman off the bench for more floor time. Coleman (6 kills, 7 winning serves) immediately put down four kills to tie the score 5-5.
But Burley was the better team at the end, Mills putting down five straight winners to send it to a decisive game.
Richards said, "We were being complacent. We didn't go after it. To their credit, Burley defended well and we didn't adjust. But we kept swinging."
The 'Cats led 6-3 and 8-5 in the fifth. That's when Gustafson came up with three huge kills and teamed with junior Grace Lagodich (8 kills) for a big block and a 9-8 Hailey lead.
Back and forth it went, until Lagodich went high at the net for a beautiful left-handed tip and a 17-16 lead. Then, with Kaylee Baker serving, setter Jessica Hamilton kept the ball alive at the net and Gustafson hammered the game winner.
Co-captain Baker (12 kills, 5 blocks for points, 10 blocks in all) was a big factor. At the serving stripe so were senior setter Haleigh Hall (20 winning serves, 3 aces), senior libero Kylie Anderson (9 serves, 3 aces) and sophomore setter Hamilton (9 serves, 3 aces).
Richards said, "Jessica has matured so much as a setter."
In Monday's first match, top-seeded Wood River took care of #4-seeded Minico 25-16, 25-23, 25-21. Leading hitters were eight kills apiece were Lagodich, Gustafson and Johnson. Baker added six.
Burley handled #3-seeded Jerome 25-23, 25-23, 25-14 in the other first-round match, then Jerome eliminated Minico 25-21, 17-25, 25-15, 25-18 in a loser-out match. Tuesday night, Burley clashed with Jerome in a loser-out match, the winner advancing to play Wood River.
Wood River, the two-time defending GBW tournament champion, was seeking the school's 21st district tournament title and 22nd trip to the state volleyball tournament.
Cutthroats exit Northside
Led by the hitting of senior Jesse Dill, the #2-seeded Dietrich Blue Devils (15-4) dethroned the two-time defending Northside Conference champion Richfield Tigers (14-6) Monday night in the Northside championship at Murtaugh.
On the second day of the three-day, seven-school volleyball tournament, Murtaugh ousted The Community School of Sun Valley 25-12, 25-17, 25-13. Last Saturday, Dietrich had taken care of coach Reamy Goodwin's Cutthroats (0-15) by 25-10, 25-9, 25-15 scores.
Coach Kathy Whitworth's Carey Panthers played Murtaugh Tuesday night in the loser bracket, trying to stay alive for a shot at #3-seeded Camas County later in the evening. Carey (13-10) won its first match Saturday in three games over Magic Valley Christian before losing in three to Richfield later Saturday evening.
At stake were three berths in the State 1A Division 2 tournament Oct. 31 in Burley. And Dietrich claimed one of those three berths Monday night.