After their upset win over the Jerome Tigers last Thursday, Wood River High School volleyball players are headed to the State 4A tournament Friday and Saturday, Oct. 26-27 at Skyline High School in Idaho Falls.
It is the first state appearance since 2008 for the Wolverine program guided by 11th-year head coach Tim Richards (226-176). Wood River (19-17) opens the eight-team double elimination tournament Friday at 10 a.m. against northern Idaho champ Sandpoint (22-8).
The Wolverine team is the only new entry in the tournament, since seven of the eight teams from last year’s 4A tournament are returning. Sandpoint with its deep fleet of outside hitters won its district title easily over Moscow Saturday.
The two-time defending state champion is Century of Pocatello (36-3), which on Saturday in Pocatello captured its 13th straight district title, over Bonneville of Idaho Falls,
First state matches Friday are: At 8 a.m., Skyview of Nampa (36-4) vs. Bonneville (29-7), and Century vs. Emmett; and, at 10 a.m., Wood River vs. 14-time state volleyball champion Sandpoint, and 2011 consolation winner Twin Falls vs. Bishop Kelly of Boise.
Last year at state, Sandpoint went two-and-out with losses to third-place Bonneville in four games and to the Twin Falls Bruins in three games.
A new aspect about the state tournament: It’s a true double elimination tournament again, with up to 15 matches scheduled in two days, compared to 11 in last year’s single elimination consolation bracket meet.
Wood River last competed at state as the GBC champion in 2008, when the big meet was also played at Skyline. With one match win at this weekend’s tournament, the Wolverines will achieve a 20-win season—something Hailey teams did nine consecutive times through 2008, but not since.
District win over Jerome
Richards said about Thursday’s 25-21, 25-20, 27-25 state qualifying win over Jerome at Twin Falls High School, “Wood River reached its goal of earning a trip to the state tournament by taking down No. 2 seed Jerome and its eight seniors at the Great Basin Conference tournament.
“This volleyball team has had one of the best attitudes of all the teams I have ever coached. It is a pleasure to work with them.”
Seeded third in the six-team GBC meet, Wood River earned its state trip by winning four of its six matches over a week. The Wolverines finished second in the tournament, after third-place finishes in 2009 and 2010, and fourth last fall.
Richards said, “The Wolverines started their end-of-the-season surge with their only five-set win of the season against Canyon Ridge on ‘Senior Night’ in Hailey Oct. 11.
“I told the girls that for the district tournament our strategy would be to win one match a day for three days, and that would take us to state.”
The Wolverines downed Burley in three games on the first night of play Oct. 15. A loss to Jerome put Wood River into the loser bracket, but last Tuesday the Wolverines handily beat Canyon Ridge in three.
On last Wednesday’s day off, Wood River worked on serving and defense as the girls prepared for their knockout match against Jerome. The practice paid off. Having lost three times to Jerome previously this season, the Wolverines were in command Thursday in the season’s biggest match.
They led 19-10 in the first game, withstood a furious Jerome rally and scored four in a row after a 21-21 tie to prevail 25-21. It was Wood River’s turn to rally in the third and final game. Trailing 20-14, the Wolverines refocused and tied it 23-23, 24-24 and 25-25. With a kill by Lily Richards and a Mary Petzke block, the Wolverines sent Jerome (24-11) packing.
Seniors Kori Paradis and Lily Richards were outstanding. Richards led the way with 16 kills, 2 service aces and 19 digs. Paradis sparked the defense in digs with 23 and had 9 kills plus 2 aces and 21 serves.
Petzke added 3 kills and Madi Hendrix 2. Brittney Bradley chipped in 23 assists and 13 digs, Haley Cutler 15 digs and Ciceley Peavey totaled 12 digs.
Wood River, headed to state for the 23rd time, was the conference champion from 2006-08 before the entry of the Twin Falls Bruins into the 4A Great Basin. And Twin Falls captured its fourth consecutive GBC tournament title later Thursday with a 25-14, 25-9, 25-11 triumph over the Wolverines.
Coach Richards said, “After an emotional win and celebration, Wood River went on to play Twin Falls in the district championship. Leaving it all on the court in the previous match, we struggled against Twin, losing in three sets.
“That didn't dampen the spirits of the Wolverines and their young sophomores. They are looking forward to continuing their season with a trip to Idaho Falls and the state tournament this weekend!”