It’s been some time since the Wood River High School varsity volleyball team knocked off the Twin Falls Bruins in a regular-season match, but it nearly happened Thursday night during a hard-fought battle in Hailey.
Twin Falls (28-10 in 2018) was the Great Basin Conference tournament runner-up to eventual State 4A champion Century of Pocatello last October. Yet the Bruins had their hands full with the Wolverines of first-year coach Kristyn Rutland.
The Bruins settled their first-game serving problems, turned the tide with blocking and barely survived a 23-25, 25-18, 25-15, 19-25, 15-13 Great Basin Conference West Division battle on the Hailey floor.
Senior outside hitter Emily Vandenberg of Wood River led the way with 21 kills, 3 blocks and 5 service winners including 2 aces. Her hustle and acrobatic digs sparked a team defensive effort that sharpened as the match wore on and got tougher.
Twin Falls had more weapons on the attack, most prominently senior Paige Fullmer (10 kills, 2 blocks, 11 assists, 9 service winners with 3 aces) and sophomore middle hitter Brenley Hansen (8 kills, 7 blocks, 4 service winners with 2 aces).
Both teams left the floor with 3-1-0 Great Basin league records, Twin Falls having lost before to Preston.
Coach Rutland said, “The girls put up a great fight and are eager to play Twin again in a few weeks (Thursday, Oct. 10 in Twin Falls). We need to minimize errors and spread out our offense.
“We are really building up our confidence playing the programs that have dominated for the past several years. I’m excited to see how that will build into this season and will end up finishing strong and solid.
“The girls are working hard and have a strong desire to maximize their potential. We will get there.”
Wood River got the ball rolling in Thursday’s first game with a 25-23 win, holding off Twin Falls after building 6-1, 15-9 and 23-15 leads. Senior libero Cambria Morris (14 service winners, 5 aces, 10 digs) served seven winners in that game.
Twin Falls rallied from a 24-18 deficit behind the serving of Fullmer and the blocking of Hansen and junior outside hitter Kaitlin Evans (5 kills, 2 blocks, 8 service winners, 4 aces). At 24-23, Rutland called time and Vandenberg made a clutch dig and finished with a kill.
In the next two games, Wood River had problems with serve-receive and Twin Falls capitalized with 25-18, 25-15 wins—Fullmer, Hansen and Evans coming up big.
Sophomore Willa Laski entered the fray and diversified the attack for Wood River in the final two games. Supplementing Vandenberg’s 6 kills, Laski pounded 4 kills including the decider in the 25-19 Hailey win.
The fifth and deciding game of the two-hour match was tied six times through the middle of the set, but Twin Falls surged ahead 12-7 on the serve of junior outside hitter Brinley Iverson (4 kills, 3 blocks, 15 service winners). Her two aces in the streak hit the net and dropped in.
Wood River refused to quit and got a big boost by a winning block from the tandem of Laski and senior Sariah Nilsen (9 kills, 2 blocks, 8 service winners, 2 aces).
Laski’s tip then made it 13-10, and Twin Falls belted two out-of-bounds balls for a 13-12 score. But Bruins coach Andria Harshman’s time out helped Twin steady itself
Fullmer and Hansen then supplied the winning kills, 15-13.
Other Wolverines contributing to the match included freshman setter Samantha Chambers (25 assists, 5 service winners), junior Katelyn Spence (3 kills, 1 block, 2 service winners), senior Lauren Thomsen (4 kills, 3 blocks, 3 service winners with 2 aces), senior Josie Conely (5 service winners) and senior Anabelle Rust (9 assists, 5 digs).
Twin Falls senior libero Clair Hodge (9 service winners) provided a slew of digs to propel the offense.
Wood River’s junior varsity and freshman teams won Thursday, the ninth-graders in two games and the JV finishing the triumph in three.
The Wood River varsity plays at the Jerome tournament on Saturday, Sept. 14 and goes against Preston on Tuesday in a GBC faceoff at Canyon Ridge High School in Twin Falls.