Laramie High School is back in the state tournament for high school volleyball, but this time they are not the favorites.

After back-to-back titles, LHS has a different role entering the 2022 state championships in Casper, as they try to play the spoiler role.

Laramie (24-7) plays Riverton (14-16) on Thursday at 4:30 p.m. in the Ford Wyoming Center for their first-round match. The winner will play the winner of Kelly Walsh-Thunder Basin in the semifinals, while the two losers will face elimination on Friday.

Head coach Jill Stucky says it’s about confidence for her squad.

“We have to go in extremely confident, because when our young kids are confident, they, I feel like, are just unstoppable.”

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KOWB’s David Settle visited with senior Emily Gardner and junior Anna Sell in the video above for a preview of the state tournament from the players’ perspective. They discussed any pressure they are feeling, and reflected on the regional tournament, the bracket, playing Riverton, and some keys to success.

Stucky says the focus in practice this week was on self-confidence.

“We’re working a lot on just belief in our self. I’m putting up a block in front of every hitter all week long, so we’re just used to not being able to swing at the exact spot we want to. We have to swing around a block, over a block, through a block, and over the net into some defenders. We just (need to) understand that the state tournament is always a dogfight.”

The Lady Plainsmen reached the state tournament after a good weekend at the regional tournament in Cheyenne last weekend. Laramie swept Sheridan and Natrona County to qualify for the state tournament. They lost in the regional title match in four sets to Cheyenne East. That gave LHS the No. 2 seed from the East Region, which means they face the No. 3 seed from the West Region, Riverton.

Stucky said they saw the Wolverines early in the season.

“We managed to get past them in two sets (at a tournament), but the Riverton team that we will see at the state tournament will be substantially different. I feel like they’re similar to us, and they’ve just matured well over the season.”

The other first-round matches are Kelly Walsh versus Thunder Basin, Cody takes on Natrona County, and Cheyenne East will play Star Valley.

Stucky believes there’s a lot of parody with this field of eight teams.

“There are some really, really nice teams this year. Other years, maybe there’s one or two at the top, and they just sit there or you know they’ll make the finals, but this year I feel like there could be a number of teams in that finals.”

Laramie’s hoping they can put together their three best matches of the season and pull out a third consecutive state title.

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