For the second time in the last three seasons the Rock River Lady Longhorns have made it to the state volleyball tournament.

Rock River placed second at last weekend’s 1A East Regional tournament they hosted in Wheatland. Their only loss was to fourth-ranked Lingle-Ft. Laramie in the championship. They had four set victories over Arvada-Clearmont and Hulett.

Longhorns coach Heather Alexander said she could tell from the first day of practice this was a special group of 11 players.

“They are some of the best girls I’ve coached in 17 years of coaching at Rock River. I have a very coachable set of young ladies. I have an athletic set of young ladies, but I have a set of young ladies that’s truly special because they play for the other person on the floor; extremely unselfish. They’re about playing for their teammates and the person next to them, and that’s what makes this team so special.”

Rock River enters the 1A state tournament with a 16-9 record. Two years ago the Longhorns made state, and last year Alexander felt was a good building season and that aided this year.

Their first round opponent isn’t easy, as Rock River matches up against defending 1A champion Little Snake River (25-3). The teams did not play in the regular season.

Alexander said the Rattlers are always tough.

“They won the state tournament last year; have tons of returners from that team, and you can never count them out. They’ve got some huge hitters. They set up a really nice block. They like to run a quicker offense, and we haven’t seen that a lot this year in the teams that we played, so that’s something we’ve been really working on this week in practice. They’re a very well-coached team and a very disciplined team.”

She added it’s about doing their best to represent their school and their community at state.

Courtesy: Doug Spriggs, Rock River Teacher

Alexander said her message has been it’s about us, not the opponent.

“I truly believe these ladies, when they are at the top of their game, and they’re doing what they do, I honestly don’t think there’s anybody that can beat us. I think the person that beats us is us… When we can get past that mental-aspect of who’s on that other side of the net, and just flat plat volleyball, we’re an amazing team to watch.”

Senior setter Bella Davila, junior Rory Clark-Johnston and sophomore Lydia Moore lead the charge for the Longhorns.

Alexander said they’ve had a great week.

“They’re calm, they’re collected. They realize that they’ve accomplished their first goal. It takes a lot to get 1A team to state. It’s a lot different than the bigger schools because there’s 28 1A schools in the state of Wyoming and only 8 go to the state tournament. So that’s 20 teams that stay home. In your bigger schools, it’s nothing like that, so to make it to this state tournament is a great accomplishment.”

Alexander also believes having some more experience going into state, whether it’s with volleyball or basketball, is highly beneficial and not such a wide-eyed situation.

Rock River faces Little Snake River at 4:30 p.m. Thursday in the Casper Events Center.