Bolts thrive on drama to capture 3rd at state

While many teams have yearly goals of reaching the state tournament, the Thunder Basin High School volleyball team demands it and capped another great season by capturing third place in 4A. (Photo courtesy of Thunder Basin Bolt Volleyball)

The road through the Wyoming High School Activities Association’s 4A state tournament was anything but easy for the Thunder Basin High School volleyball team. Every match, even the three-set sweep, were action-packed and close to the finish. But when the final serve was made and the last whistle blew, it was yet another stellar performance for the state’s newest program.

Senior Taylor Hamilton (12) and junior Eagan Clark talk strategy before the the serve. (Photo courtesy of Kellie Jo Allison Photography)

In what is arguably the best start to any athletic program for any school in Wyoming, the Bolts have placed at state every year since its inception in 2017. This season was yet another banner year as they left Casper late Saturday with more hardware after capturing third place with a hard-fought sweep over Natrona County 25-23, 25-22, 25-23.

It was a test of endurance and patience for Thunder Basin. Just to reach the last match, the spikers had to overcome 10 sets combined against state champion Laramie and Cheyenne East and then return to the court three hours later to take care of the Fillies in three-set fashion.

Junior Brooke Carroll fires a shot at two blockers. (Photo courtesy of Kellie Jo Allison Photography)

Every match at state was filled with drama as nothing came easy for the Bolts. The finale against NCHS was no different but it showed the determination and character of a team that refuses to ever lose.

In the third-place contest, TBHS trailed often and never led by more than three points in the opening set. In fact, it was tied at 23-23 before the seniors slammed the door shut – two kills courtesy of Hannah Durgin and Risa Pilon wrapped up the first win.

All three sets offered the same type of excitement. In the second stanza, the Bolts struck early and often as the powerful hitting of junior Joelie Spelts, offensive output of Brooke Carroll and Taylor Hamilton and stingy defense by Ellie Thomas guided the team to a 6-0 lead.

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Junior Joelie Spelts surveys the defense as she serves. (Photo courtesy of Kellie Jo Allison Photography)

That was not enough to guarantee the team an easier battle. Natrona County stormed right back and suddenly the set was tied at 10 apiece.

The Fillies managed a three-point lead before Thunder Basin flexed its dominance yet again. A kill via Carroll and two hits from Spelts and Durgin tied things up at 16-16.

The set was tied three more times, the final time at 22-22. That’s when TBHS scored three straight points in three different ways – a kill by Carroll, a block from Durgin and an ace via Carroll to get the win and move one set away from the trophy.

Not to be outdone, the third set had the same amount of drama as the first two combined. Neither team led by more than two points the entire way.

The Bolts struck first when Spelts pelted NCHS with consecutive kills to make it 2-0. After that, nothing came easy. However, Eagan Clark, Kinley Solem and the Thunder basin squad never buckled under any pressure.

That pressure included four lead changes and a stunning 11 tied scores, with the final coming at 23-23 yet again. The Fillies committed a hitting error that gave TBHS the final serve of the set, the match and the season and that’s when Spelts sent her team into the offseason with the trophy as she slammed a kill to seal the deal.

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The incredible start to the Thunder Basin volleyball program

2021 – 3rd at state, beat Natrona County

2020 – 3rd at state, beat Cheyenne East

2019 – 2nd at state, lost to Kelly Walsh in championship

2018 – 4th at state, lost to Star Valley in 3rd-place match

2017 – 4th at state, lost to Laramie in 3rd-place match