SHELLEY — The Shelley Russet volleyball squad entered Tuesday nights conference tournament needing nine wins for a district championship. At the end of a very loud, and very dominant evening, they got all nine of those wins in just ten of the possible fifteen games, as they downed Teton 3-0 and then Sugar-Salem 3-0 and 3-1 while punching their ticket to the state tournament with a 3A Mountain Rivers Conference Championship.
"Honestly I was the most nervous with the first match with Teton," Shelley head coach Dave Cousin said. "If we lost to Sugar we knew that we still had a chance to make it into the state tournament with a play in game on Saturday but to get to Sugar we had to beat Teton so I was really tense in the Teton game."
No need for tension however as the Russets steamrolled the Redskins in three straight 25-17, 25-14 and 25-21 as they took early leads in all three games and never looked back. With the first mission done, Shelley then turned to the task of beating Sugar-Salem not once, but twice.
"We relaxed a little bit after the Teton match and the girls just performed nearly perfectly," Coach Cousin said. "They were just so motivated to get the job done."
Indeed the momentum in the gym just kept building all evening long as the Russets rolled through the Diggers like a hot knife through butter with game scores of 25-15, 25-15 and 25-20 in the first match.
Key to the evenings success was the blocking success of Ashlyn Yancey, Madysen Longhurst and Deidre Wilson who combined to stuff Sugar-Salems big hitters, including Sierra Spratling, time and time again as the raucous Shelley student body cheered madly with each put back.
"When Sugar beat us on Saturday Spratling really hurt us," Coach Cousin said. "We had a good practice yesterday and really worked on blocking, especially in the middle and the girls did a great job of controlling the net today and it was a big key for us."
"Spratling is a big part of their team so we came in really wanting to shut her down," Ashlyn Yancey said. "We've worked hard all year long and we made it a point of getting our blocks down today."
Despite rolling through the first two matches the Russets still needed a win in the final match if they wanted that coveted blue trophy but the Diggers are a good team, and everyone in the gym knew that they were going to make a stand.
And stand they did in game one of the championship match as they led on two different occasions by as many as three points as the Russets experienced being behind for the first time on the evening.
Behind the big hitting of Kimber Call however, the Russets clawed their way back into the lead, eventually winning game one 26-24.
Momentum from that big win spilled over into game two as they shot out to a commanding 9-1 lead and never looked back as they captured game two 25-19 leaving them just one win away from the district title.
The Diggers would not go quietly into that good night however as they built a 21-12 lead in game three before Shelley came roaring back to tie the game at 24-24. The comeback stalled however as Sugar-Salem finally got on the board with a 27-25 win in game three.
That proved to be the last hurrah for the Diggers though as Shelley dominated the fourth game, cruising to an impressive 25-16 victory, leading to a joyous celebration at mid court by the team and their fans.
"The girls earned this. They have worked so hard and that never say die attitude has been with them all year long," Coach Cousin said. "Now they want to go over and compete for a state title. There is only one volleyball state championship banner in this gym and we would like nothing better to add a second."
"We're going to go all the way," echoed Ashlyn Yancey.
The quest for that banner will begin on October 26 when they tip off at 10 a.m. at Madison High School against the winner of the play in game between the second place finishers in the first and fourth districts.