By: Shawn O’Brate

RIVERTON – Thursday night marked one of the final games of both the Riverton Lady Wolverines’ and Lady Tigers’ volleyball season but it also marked the return of the annual Keeper of the Gold rivalry between the two in-county teams. 

This year the trophy was battled over at Riverton High School (RHS) and, more importantly, the Lady Wolverines were looking to perform the clean sweep over Lander Valley for the first time since 2019. 

After beating the Lady Tigers back in Lander by a score of 3-1 the Lady Wolverines knew what was at stake and didn’t falter at all. They started out of the gate strong, and they started off the game with a senior celebrating her final night at RHS in her Lady Wolverines’ uniform. 

“Jo is going to start tonight, she is cleared to serve and that is all,” first year head coach, Kim Davis said about senior Jordyne Anderson who had a complete tear in her knee during one of the first practices of the year. 

Riverton Senior Jackson Hill sprinted around the court after the Lady Wolverines first set win Thursday in Riverton. (p/c Carl Cote)

“She did it in a practice when I was here and still thinking about taking the (RHS) position,” Coach Davis continued, “But she’s been at practice every single day just for that moment to hear her name announced and to get there, it’s a tribute to her.”

After Anderson served, and served well, the team really got into a groove with their blocking and especially their passing, which is something that Coach Davis said needed improvement all season. 

“We’ve been working on [passing] and we’ve been working on earned points, I really saw us capitalize on that tonight,” Coach Davis said after the match. 

The first set belonged to the Lady Wolverines by a score of 25-11 after some major effort diving for every ball and jumping high for every block. Riverton’s student section, dressed and painted in pink for breast cancer awareness, was also a major force for the Lady Wolverines. 

Riverton’s senior gathered for a group photo on senior night Thursday in Riverton. (p/c Carl Cote)

“The student section was phenomenal, that was probably the best I’ve ever seen it,” Coach Davis said after the swarm of pink rallied on the floor after the match. “I saw a couple basketball games when I first got here and it was triple that tonight.”

After that, the Lady Wolverines repeated their first set with a score of 25-11 with the thanks of quite a few uncharacteristic errors on the Lady Tigers’ side of the net. 

“I know they gave us a lot, we didn’t earn a lot of those points that I would have liked to have had,” Coach Davis said about the Lady Tigers after the game. 

Between the second and third set the 50/50 raffle was called, with over $150 up for grabs with the other half being donated to breast cancer awareness. But, when prompted to take the money the winner declined and said to donate their share to the cause as well, something that was well worth an applause afterwards, especially from coach Davis.

“I’ve had an aunt that’s passed away and my mom … she’s a survivor, so it’s dear to our heart,” Coach Davis said. “I don’t think I know many people that it’s not connected to in some way shape or form, we love to support it.”

Rylee Johnson went up for the spike against Lander. She would help her team bring back the Keeper of the Gold trophy. (p/c Carl Cote)

When the third set began the excitement in the room was palpable and could likely be heard far outside of RHS and the volleyball court. The third set began pretty equally, set-for-set the two teams traded blows and had phenomenal vision throughout the first 15 serves as they were tied 7-7 halfway through. 

But, once the Lady Wolverines smelled blood in the water it was seemingly over for the Lander Lady Tigers. The sophomore, Connie Little Thunder, would knock through four of the final five scores on the way to a clean, three-set sweep (25-11, 25-11, 25-16) of the Lady Tigers to reclaim the Keeper of the Gold Trophy for the first time since 2019. 

As the pink and maroon mob started flooding the court Coach Davis admitted she had no idea just how intense this in-county rivalry really was when she first took the head coaching position.

“I didn’t realize how big this trophy game was, I kept thinking ‘this is not a conference match’ but it seems to be a big deal,” Coach Davis said before the game. Afterwards, Coach Davis reiterated her statement before celebrating with her team:

“I’m so happy for them, I did not realize how big of a rivalry this was, but it’s huge. I’m glad they got the trophy, I know it’s been a few years … if it’s important to them, it’s important to me.”

Up next, the Lady Wolverines take on one of the toughest teams in the state as they travel to Cody to take on the Fillies on Saturday (10/22) with the hopes of avenging their two losses to them so far this season. And, for the Lady Tigers, they head to Pinedale who is still looking for their first conference victory of the season (0-5). 

Look for both of these games’ scores and stats in Wednesday’s edition of the Ranger and Lander Journal, as well as playoff information for the upcoming volleyball postseason.