Riverton locks up Lander in Keeper of the Gold matchup

RIVERTON – One of the most anticipated nights of any sports seasons is the return of the Keeper of the Gold rivalry matchup between Lander Valley and Riverton, two cross-county rivals who have gone at it in every sport going back to the 1930s. Thursday night added another epic battle between the two schools, this time on the volleyball court with the Lady Tigers and Lady Wolverines. 

The “Froshmore” teams started everything off at Wolverine Stadium at Riverton High School (RHS). Lander Valley High School (LVHS) found themselves in a barn-burner after going up one set to zero, fighting neck-and-neck against the Lady Wolverines all the way down to the final points. After getting up on RHS 24-22 late in the second set, the Froshmore Lady Wolverines clawed their way back to win 26-24 on a stellar block on the front line. 

Both teams continued to stick around on each other, often times trading points every other possession. LVHS eventually jumped out to a huge lead after eight-straight points to break a 12-12 tie. The Lady Tigers finished off the Froshmores from RHS 25-16, coming off a spike by freshman McKenzie Fixter, winning 2-1 before the junior varsity teams took the court. 

JV’s girls were exactly like the first match: back-and-forth, neck and neck. Neither team found a lead of more than two until RHS took a 22-19 lead late in the first set, holding it until 25-23. The Lady Wolverines didn’t wait to take the lead in the next set, going up 11-4 early and ending up winning 25-18 to take the JV matchup 2-0. 

Addi Aley celebrated with her teammates as the Wolverines scored their final point in their win ver Lander Thursday. (p/c Carl Cote)

The varsity game saw a much fuller set of bleachers and a packed student section on Riverton’s side of Wolverine Stadium. Riverton’s varsity girls, playing under new Head Coach Justin Taylor, had some miscommunication errors at the beginning of the first set despite getting up 5-2 on Lander early and inflating it to a 13-4 lead. 

Riverton’s Lady Wolverines continued to dominate, expanding to a double-digit lead for much of the rest of the first set before letting up a little and eventually winning 25-17. The final nail in the coffin of the first set came from Alexis Taylor, who had been showing up and showing off all through the night. 

The Lander student showed up in big numbers and were a loud presence in the Riverton gym Thursday. (p/c Carl Cote)

Lander Valley couldn’t get any offense together in the next set, falling down 18-5 in the second. Riverton would eventually win 25-7 to take the second set. The third set seemed to be when the Lady Tigers finally kicked themselves into another gear, starting off up on their rivals, but both squads became evenly matched after a few substitutions and they found themselves tied for much of the set. 

Late in the third set Lander was up 23-21 and after a few tough digs they were able to get the set victory off a shot into the net by the Lady Wolverines, 2-1 in favor of the home team. The fourth set meant a lot to both teams, RHS still needed one more to win the first rivalry matchup and Lander needed another set to tie their rivals and force a final 15 points. It started off much better for Riverton though, easily getting up 7-1 early. Lander got their digs back, tying it up at 10-10, but Riverton would not be denied. 

Teagan Pickard celebrated a point late in the fourth set against Riverton Thursday. (p/c Carl Cote)

The Lady Wolverines took another few serves and placed their spikes perfectly; suddenly they found themselves up 20-12, five points away from victory on their home court. They ended up winning it all in front of their home crowd and student section after winning 25-17 and celebrating their rivalry win for the third-straight time. 

“It was a pretty intense game. I thought that when we came out here we had lots of good energy but once that third set hit it was kind of hard,” Riverton’s Alexis Taylor said after being named the Papa Murphy’s Player of the Game on WyoToday’s broadcast of the match. “They were aggressive too but we pulled together and we managed to pull it back in.”

Taylor, who was able to snag multiple points for the Lady Wolverines off her serving arm, said that this game always means more to the team than other matches during the season for a reason:

“It’s Lander … it’s our rivals, we want to get out and we want to beat them,” Taylor said before praising her teammates. “At the same time, the energy all starts within us and if we all want to work hard we can manage to do a good job … I know that we still have a lot to work with and work for but I know that we have a lot of talent and a lot of heart on our team, and we have a really good connection with one another so I’m really excited … We’re a family.”

Up next, the Lady Wolverines head to Jackson High School next Friday, September 15, while Lander heads to the Rawlins Invite this weekend. 

BY: Shawn O’Brate