Thunder Basin goes down fighting

Thunder Basin junior Joelie Spelts smashes a shot from outside at state. (Photo courtesy of Kellie Jo Allison Photography)

If the No. 1 team in the Wyoming was going to advance to the championship match, the Thunder Basin High School volleyball team made sure it was well earned. That’s exactly what unfolded Friday in Casper as TBHS traded blows with Laramie like a heavyweight fight and battled to the bitter end before coming up a tad short in a 25-16, 23-25, 25-17, 22-25, 15-11 thriller. The Bolts trailed in all five sets. However, the fight and the leadership of the team refused to lose and left it all on the court in pursuit of the program’s first title.

While a state championship will have to wait another season, Thunder Basin still has some unfinished business left at the WHSAA state tournament. The talented bunch Saturday morning came out on top of another five-set marathon to beat Cheyenne East 24-26, 25-21, 15-25, 25-22, 15-12.

The Bolts will take on Natrona County at 2 p.m. in a fight for some hardware as the third-place trophy will be going home with the winner of the match.

TBHS junior Kinley Solem and a teammate stuff an attack at the net. (Photo courtesy of Kellie Jo Allison photography)

As for the two-hour clash with Laramie, the Bolts put up an epic fight. Every time Laramie unleashed its powerful presence at the net, TBHS had an answer. Those answers came in the form of clutch defense behind libero Ellie Thomas who routinely came up with game-changing digs to keep her team in position to win every set.

After the Plainsmen took the opening set, Thunder Basin started to bite back. The team trailed 20-16 in the second set but never quit.

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Brooke Carroll slammed back-to-back kills and Joelie Spelts had a massive stuffed block that fueled an improbable rally that changed the entire match. TBHS took a 21-20 lead and then used a dink by Hannah Durgin, a save from Eagan Clark and a huge kill by Spelts for the winner and tie things up one set each.

The third set looked just like the final three sets. Laramie would flex its offensive muscle, but the Bolts always had an answer. They used the big-hit ability of Risa Pilon, Kinley Solem and Durgin and the offensive leadership of setter Taylor Hamilton to tie the score in every set the rest of the way.

TBHS dropped the third stanza but once again battled from behind in the fourth with yet another impressive fight. The Bolts trailed by seven but rallied behind their seniors just like in second set to steal the lead late and to stun Laramie and force a fifth and deciding set.


RJ covers community and government news as well as hometown sports for County 17. He has been a photojournalist for the past 25 years in Wyoming, and mostly Texas. RJ has enjoyed a lifetime career in photography and journalism which began in the U.S. Army at Fort Jackson, S.C. where he was in communications. For story ideas and features, contact RJ at