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November 8, 2012

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4 I LHS Volleyball Champions I The Lovell Chronicle I November 8, 2012 1997 By David Peck Championship teams are forged in different ways from talent and coaching to grit and determination, but all have one thing in com- mon: they somehow come up with a special mix of all the key ingredients that propels them to the top. Lovell High School's 1997 state championship volleyball team - until now Lovell's only state ti- tle team in the sport - had a number of things in com- mon with this year's squad that won it all, even though 15 years separate the two championships. One of the prime ingre- dients both teams possessed was a determined mind- set born both from their coach and from the players themselves. "Our seniors came to us and really wanted a cham- pionship," said 1997 set- ter Becky Walker Rael of then seniors Jamie Walk- er May and Lynn Gibbons Neuenschwander. "e knew we had the talent to do it, we just came together that weekend. We had a whole different atti- tude than other teams I've seen at State. We wanted to do it and knew we could do it. We just happened to work really well together and just jelled that weekend." Like this year's team, a title was anything but a for- gone conclusion for the '97 Lady Bulldogs, who first had to battle their way out of the 2A West Regional Tourna- ment in Riverton. Match- es in those days were best two out of three to 15 points, with points only scored when a team had the serve. Lovell beat Saratoga 2-0 in the first match but fell to Greybull 2-1 in the second round. In a loser-out match, the Lady Bulldogs lost the first game to Rocky Moun- tain Saturday morning 15-5 but rallied to top the Lady Grizzlies 15-8, 15-2 to earn a trip to State. "I distinctly remember a now-or-never speech in the locker room, and they decid- ed it was now," head coach Mike Greenlee said. The Bulldogs swept Pinedale 2-0 to earn the third seed coming out of the west, but unlike the current format, where both sides of the state hold regional tour- naments, the east at that time held two district tour- naments, with two teams ad- vancing from each district. Thus, the Lady Bulldogs, as a three seed, had to meet the top seed from the Northeast, the Hulett Red Devils. Having earned a trip to State, which was held in Cody that year, the Lady Bulldogs were determined to give it everything they had. "I remember that week in practice, and I remember being late for a practice, but the girls were so motivat- ed that they were running 2 012 Sophomore Dana Fowler keeps her eye on the ball as she readies to spike the ball against Lusk i in the championship match of the Class 2A State Volleyball Tournament in Cody Teammates Jarnie Walker (21), Janis Bea/ (10), Becky Walker (15) and Kan link move into defensive position. /(aria Pomeroy photo (1997) " The Chronicle regrets not being able to locate the championship team negative. Other team members were Kee/a Coffins, Lynn Gibbons, Jane//Schul- thess, Shelby Phelps, Jackie petts and Teri Hyde. They were coached by I Greenlee, /m were Renae Padi/la and Nina Mayes. laps when I got to the gym," Greenlee said. '131ey had a goal in mind and were pretty intent on accomplishing it." "We wanted it. We worked really hard and had the team that could do it," Gibbons Neuenschwander said. "Both coaches (Green- lee and Ina Hubbell) were awesome. Hats off to them. A lot of us hadn't won a championship, so that was special. "They brought us togeth- er. Girls are hard to coach because they're nit-picky, but they made us a team." The team - seniors (us- ing maiden names) Lynn Gibbons and Jamie Walker, juniors Kari Fink and Shel- by Phelps, sophomores Dana Fowler, Teri Hyde, Jackie Tippetts, Julie Tippetts and Becky Walker and freshmen Janis Beat, Keela Collins and Janell Schulthes - came together at State. (Betsy Wardell was the freshman coach on the team, and man- agers were Renae Padilla and Nina Mayes.) Lovell beat Hulett 2-1 in the opening round in Cody, 8-15, 15-9, 15-4, thanks, in part, to strong play at the net by Gibbons and Fowler, who finished the match with eight blocks. "Once we won that first game...I remember sitting on the bus and couldn't be- lieve we had won," Jamie Walker May said. "It was an upset. It gave us the ambi- tion we needed." The Lady Bulldogs then met Riverside, who had dis- patched Lingle in the first round. Lovell lost the first game of the semifinals to the Lady Rebels I5-9 but re- bounded to win 15-10, 15- 12 and advance to the title match. Gibbons had 11 kills in the semifinal, Jamie Walker 10 and Fowler seven. Lovell trailed 8-2 in game three but rallied, closing the gap to 8-7 then reeling off six straight points off the service of Fowler to lead 13-8. River- side closed to 13-11, but late kills by Gibbons and Walk- er finished off the match for Lovell. In the finale, Lovell met Lusk, who had defeated Pinedale and Tongue Riv- er to advance to the finals. Lovell edged Lusk 17-15 in a barnburner of an open- ing game, then fell 15-11 in game two. That set up the decisive game three, and Lovell won 15-5 to claim the title. Lovell controlled the third game from the get- go, leading 8-1 early. After Lusk cut into the lead at 9-4, freshman Beal served five straight winners to put Lovell at championship point, 14-4. Lusk cut the lead to 14-5, then thwarted Lovell twice on match point before Becky Walker finally ua8 in attituSe, teamwork served the game winner. Greenlee praised his front row of Gibbons, Fowl- er, Hyde, Jamie Walker and Julie Tippetts as well as the back-row play of Hyde, Fowler, Jamie Walker, Fink and Beal, who gave ace set- ter Becky Walker good tar- get passes to set from. "It was weird, like the game was in slow motion," Walker May said. "After ev- ery single point everybody was screaming and hugging in the middle, like it was the championship point. It was very loud." One thing every member of the 1997 team appreciated was the throng of Lovell fans who made the trip to Cody to support the Lady Bulldogs. "I remember looking up and saying, 'Oh, my God, there are so many people here.' There was a sea of blue everywhere," Walk- er May said. "We were just dumb little kids. We said, 'Come on! We can't let all of those people down.'" Added Gibbons Neuen- schwander, "I remember the whole side packed with Lovell fans. That was pretty special. It was pretty neat." "We went from looking up in the stands and seeing just the parents of players to getting more student sup- port by Regionals, and by the time we got to State there was so much support there," Greenlee said. "It was just incredible. The noise of our crowd cheering us on was a big part of our getting over the hump and winning. It was really fun." 00uilSin] a c/campion Members of the '97 team remember how coach- es brought the team togeth- er as a unit and how they instilled a sense of determi- nation and a work ethic. %Ve spent a lot of time trusting each other and working together to reach our goals," said Dana Fowler Christiansen. "We stepped up at State." Christiansen recalled the powerful hitting of Gib- bons and Jamie Walker, the outstanding setting of Becky Walker and the defense and passing of Hyde. Looking back and having been as- sociated with the game as a coach in recent years, she said she prefers the current rally scoring method with a point on every serve whether a team is serving or receiv- ing, saying she likes the fast- er pace of the game. She has plenty of praise for the 2012 champions, hav- ing assisted coach Stormy Jameson during the previ- ous two seasons, and she said the two championship teams are similar. "There were so many teams that year (1997) that could have taken it, but Lovell is the one that stepped up - like this year," she said. "This year's team played with confidence, played to win. They weren't playing to not make mistakes. We did the same thing." Jamie Walker May said the 1997 team took their cue not only from the deter- mination of the seniors but also the determination of their coach. She said Green- lee turned up the intensi- ty that year compared to her first three years on the team. "I keep coming back to... at the beginning of the sea- son Mr. Greenlee said it's never been done (at LHS), and this could be you. He had changed. He had kind of turned into this mean guy. We were running stair laps, and there was an increase in intensity. I think he was sick and tired of the team having potential and never doing anything with it. "I was resentful at the time - until we won. Then I understood. I've learned as a teacher that kids will re- spond to high expectations. That year we kind of did the impossible." "He did push us," said Lynn Gibbons Neuen- schwander, who now lives in Affon with her husband, Scott, and two kids. "He pushed us a lot. We didn't have very many seniors on that team, so our senior leadership kept everyone go- ing, too." Along with the intensi- ty there was team building, including team dinners and a ropes course at Northwot College where the girls had to trust each other in order to make it through. Greenlee also worked one-on-one with each play- er, Walker May said, "to talk about what each of us could do to help the team." He put in special plays to take ad- vantage of the talents of key players, she said. "He looked to focus on each one of our strengths," she added. "It was more specialized." Becky Walker Rael agreed, noting, "That year we really focused on the basics. Some people from Mountain View came in and did a camp with us. Because we worked so hard on basics and plyometrics, it made special things come easier to us. Our communication with each other was really good. We talked all the time during that tournament. We had special hand codes and Mr. Greenlee had plays on his board. "We were very united as a team that year, and we had a lot of positive attitude for that tournament. I don't ever remember feeling dis- couragement. We were so excited it was almost like you couldn't bring us down." Greenlee, too, recalls the efforts to get the most out of his team. "Ina and I coached to- gether, and we talked about how to get team unity," he said. Wee had different per- sonalities and severe gaps in age." Noting the ropes course at NWC, he added, "That was a terrific idea. They had to rely on each other to get through the ropes course. It was a way to get the team to trust each other and get on the same page. "If you asked them, their goal was to win State. Our practices were pretty intense and challenging. The players were all business when they needed to be. What I liked about that team is they were willing to work to achieve those goals. They .had fun, but when it was time to get down to business they knew it and they were all intense in practice. "Everyone was ready to contribute. It didn't matter who. It didn't matter who got the balls, they wanted to win. They were so much fun to work with." Greenlee, who has many of the current title team in class, said he likes the win- ning attitude the team has displayed this season, for in- stance never wanting a ball to hit the floor on their side of the net. 'They just kept getting better, and it looked like their teamwork was getting better," he said. "You would see them congratulate each other a lot. They turned into a good, cohesive team." Like that 1997 squad. You set your destination ][ Bulldog strong, all season long! and put it on cruise to the state title! [ - Imnnn, U i,   i i i i, i U i U  i i i CONGRATULATIONS, TO TH E 2012 STATE CHAMPIONS! Local customers, local loans, local deposits...all at a LOCAL bank. BigHorn THAT'S DOING BUSINESS THE gIG HORN FEDERAL WAY. Federa S East Main (307) 548-2703 Lovell, VVY 82431