Close volleyball matches tend to be back-and-forth affairs.
Thursday’s first-round regional matchup between Thunder Basin and Campbell County high schools was anything but. It was a streaky match the Bolts walked away from with a 3-1 victory.
The loss ended the Camels’ hopes of making the state tournament next weekend in Casper. It also guaranteed the Bolts a spot at state.
Thunder Basin went into the first regional match without head coach Winnett Martin after she tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday. Assistant coach John Bayles took over the head coaching responsibilities while Martin and her husband watched the game from their couch at home.
“I love playoff time, I truly love it. I thrive in that environment,” Martin said. “Tonight watching on my computer on the couch was the most stressful thing I’ve ever done.
“I was helpless. All you can do is helplessly watch.”
Thursday was the third and final meeting between the two Gillette schools this season. The first two matches in the regular season both went to five sets with the Bolts winning both.
Campbell County came out with fire in the first set of the match. While the Camels came into the regional tournament as the No. 3 seed with a 1-5 conference record, they played like a playoff team early on.
Thunder Basin battled in the first set and forced the win-by-two rule tied at 24. The Camels responded with two straight points to take the first set 26-24.
Even without their head coach on the bench, the Bolts didn’t look back. The second set was close at 16-14 before the Camels went on a six-point streak to bring the score to 22-14.
The Bolts answered with a 10-point steak of their own, bringing the set to 24-22 in Thunder Basin’s favor before closing out 25-23 to even the match at a game each.
The third set consisted of even more streaks. The Camels went on a five-point swing and the Bolts reversed it with another 10-point streak of their own. Four more points in a row for the Camels was followed by five for the Bolts.
Ultimately, the Bolts had the last streak to win 25-19.
With their backs against the wall, the Camels fought for their season in the fourth game. Down 14-7 at one point, Campbell County battled back to bring the deciding game down to the wire.
The Camels took the lead at 19-18, but the Bolts had the last streak, outscoring CCHS down the stretch to win 25-21 and close the match at 3-1.
The Camels ended the season with a 6-12 record while the Bolts (16-3) will move on as the No. 2 seed out of the East in the cross-quadrant portion of the regional tournament.
Thunder Basin moves on
The Bolts will enter the cross-quad regional tournament Saturday as the Northeast No. 2 seed after losing to Kelly Walsh. The Trojans clinched the No. 1 seed.
While all teams participating in the cross-quad competition will make the state tournament, matches Saturday will determine seeding.