TERRETON — There was no wild celebration at the net and no student body rushing the court but despite the relatively low key celebration, the Firth Cougar volleyball squad were all smiles on Wednesday evening as they capped an undefeated conference season with a solid 3-1 victory over Ririe 25-15, 25-20, 18-25 and 25-18 to capture the 2A Nuclear Conference championship.
The top seeded Cougars had to wait for an opponent for the championship game as Ririe and the two seeded North Fremont squad battled it out for the spot in the title game. Ririe won that contest so they entered the title game with a little bit of momentum already built into their game.
"I told the girls in the locker room that both Ririe and North Fremont looked a little flat to me and the neither team were playing much defense," Firth head coach Carla Reeves said. "We wanted to come out strong and get off to a good start and just jump on them quick."
And a quick start the Cougars enjoyed, led by Taylor Nelsons seven straight service winners early in game one, the Cougars roared out of the starting blocks with a 9-2 lead.
Sophomore Bailey Nelson was a big part of the game one drubbing as she bombed away from the outside as Firth cruised to the 25-15 first game victory.
Nelson finished the evening with 14 kills and 10 digs to lead the Cougars.
In game two, Ririe hit back taking a quick 4-0 lead on the Cougars and eventually an 8-3 lead forcing coach Reeves to take a time out. In the huddle, Coach Reeves left no doubt as to her displeasure with the level of play and the Cougars roared to life after the time out to eventually tie the game at 11-11 and then took a lead at 14-13 that they never relinquished as they won the second game 25-20.
"We have the tendency to get a big lead or win a game big and then we will kind of lose our concentration a bit," Coach Reeves said. "I think that some of that is the fact that we really are still a fairly inexperienced team with a lot of underclassmen on the floor."
Ririe avoided the sweep of the evenings festivities with an 18-25 third game victory and then took a quick lead in the fourth game before the Cougars awakened once more. Led by the middle blocking of Ashley Sanders who tallied back-to-back stuffs to pull the Cougars even in game four keyed the victory for the Cougars. Sanders, a sophomore, was a human brick wall in the middle for the Cougars as she finished the evening with 9 blocks.
"My sophomores were massive tonight," Coach Reeves said. "Those young kids just led us to the victory tonight."
Also a key in the fourth game win was Shelby Pfeifer who was inserted into the back row where she stabilized the defensive back line allowing for the big guns up front to bomb away at the Ririe defense.
"When Shelby goes into the back row it makes our front line a little more comfortable because with Ashley's [Carpenter] injury we have a couple of kids playing the back row who aren't as used to it yet," Coach Reeves said. "Shelby did a great job on day one of the district tournament with some big digs and tonight she settled the defense down and everyone could refocus and do their responsibilities."
With the win Firth advances to next weeks state tournament which will be held at Hillcrest High School in Idaho Falls. Firth will play at 8 a.m. on Friday morning on court two against an opponent yet to be determined.
"None of our girls have been to state but I expect to make a run at it," Coach Reeves said. "If it's one thing about my girls, when a team comes out hard against us we respond. We have a powerful front line and I think that we will do very well."