Playing in front of a lively crowd to kick off homecoming week in Jackson, the Broncs volleyball (4-11) team didn’t let its 3-1 loss to Pinedale (10-8-3) on Thursday night put a damper on the steady progress the program has made during the season.
Against the Wranglers the Broncs continued to battle even with a two-set deficit, keeping the match competitive and fighting until the very last point. Ultimately the deficit was too much to overcome, and the Broncs fell to 1-2 in the 4A Southwest division.
Despite being overpowered by Pinedale, the Broncs never gave up. The Jackson players battled back and continued to put on display the progression they have made during the last two months.
With a strong mix of underclassman and veteran leadership provided by the senior class, head coach Tera Yantzi believes the issues the team is experiencing are less about the level of talent in the locker room and more about putting her players in the right positions schematically to complement the strengths they bring to the table.
“I’ve learned that we have the tools and we have the weapons we need to have a very successful end to this season,” said Yantzi, in her third season at the helm of the program. “We’re still fine tuning the best arrangement to use those weapons.”
Competing in a season characterized as a rebuild, the group of seniors is looking to lay a foundation of work ethic and team camaraderie that will lead to success on the court for years to come.
“On and off the court, it’s all the little things. ... It’s been cool to see the seniors step up in different ways, like taking someone under their wing and helping them out in their position, or encouraging them whenever they can,” Yantzi said.
“I think these girls, they do believe in themselves and I think they’re just hungry. ... They’re hungry to start showing everybody what they are, by taking more of those wins,” Yantzi said.
Since taking over the team as head coach, Yantzi has had a clear vision for the program, one that would result in statewide respect as a consistent volleyball program in 4A.
“I hope that we can continue to be a program that grows into being respected by our entire conference,” Yantzi said. “ And when you watch us, just see that we’re a fun, fearless, focused team.”
For the tight-knit group of upperclassmen, who have been playing together for several years, it’s a priority to leave the program in a spot where the Broncs can contend for years to come.
“We’ve all been playing together since [middle school],” senior Lizzy Robinson said. “Leaving is a very sad and emotional thing, but knowing that the program is in good hands and will continue to be really well put together helps us all feel reassured. It makes it more exciting to come back and watch the underclassmen play as well, to see how much the program has grown.”
While getting underclassmen playing time early on in their high school careers may not pay off in year one, it will surely pay dividends in the coming seasons, as the Broncs future starters will be ahead of the curve compared with other teams around 4A.
“I think having new girls in the program definitely brings a different energy,” Robinson said. “It’s really helpful to see that we still have hope after we leave. There’s some extremely talented girls on the freshman and sophomore team.”
There’s a consensus among the upperclassmen: The future is bright with this group.
“The younger group definitely gets better every time they play,” senior Catrina Karlson said. “They’ve been working really hard on their passing and hitting. They’re good at keeping their energy.”
One underclassman who has contributed for varsity early in her career is sophomore Karsen Breeding. The outside hitter is expected to be a key piece for the Broncs in the coming seasons, both as a competitor and a leader.
“[Breeding] has been huge for us,” Yantzi said. “We knew she had a big arm and a tough serve, but through this whole season I’ve seen her grow more as a leader on and off the court. She’s one that you’ll see running around giving everybody high fives, telling them that ‘We’re going to turn this around.’ Her energy never changes, no matter what’s happening to her personally on the court or to the team on the court. She stays high energy.”
With six matches remaining before the team heads to regionals, Yantzi will look to find the correct formula of players needed to make a late-season run in the state tournament held in Casper.
Next up on the Broncs schedule is a date with the Rock Springs Tigers (14-9) on the road this Friday, where the girls will look to end a three-match losing streak.
The first serve for the varsity squad is scheduled for 3 p.m.
“They’re hungry to start showing everybody what they are, by taking more of those wins.” — Tera Yantzi Jackson hole high school volleyball coach