CASPER – The Rawlins Outlaws left no doubt about who the best team is in Wyoming class 3A volleyball.
The Outlaws cruised to a 3-0 sweep of the Worland Warriors in the championship match on Saturday night in Casper. The team’s dominant victory marks the first state team title for Rawlins in any sport in 18 years.
The path to victory included matches against Mountain View and Pinedale in order to secure a spot in the finals against Worland. Rawlins entered the state tournament as the hand’s down favorite in class 3A. While Rawlins bested every 3A opponent they faced this year, getting into the championship game wasn’t as easy for the Outlaws as many expected. In the first match of the tournament, the Mountain View Buffaloes gave Rawlins a run for their money. The match against Mountain View went four sets, but the Outlaws secured the win 26-24, 25-20, 11-25 and 25-11.
In the semi-final game Rawlins faced Pinedale in a match that almost sent the Outlaws’ fan base into cardiac arrest. The first set was business as usual, a quick 25-14 win. Set two, however, went to Pinedale by a score of 24-26. In set three, the Outlaws faltered again, letting Pinedale snag a 26-28 win. The third set was equally as action packed, with both sets of fans on their feet, trading cheers and competing to see who could be the loudest. Rawlins was able to close out the set with an uncomfortably close 26-24 victory to force a fifth set.
“I was so proud of how the girls played in that fourth set,” said head coach Aubrey Griffiths. “They fought hard. They played with grit. They did what it took to stay alive.”
In the fifth set we saw Rawlins return to their usual dominance with a 15-7 win to secure their third trip to the final match in three years.
After watching the Lady Outlaws in two matches that were a bit closer than expected, the Rawlins crowd came to the Casper Events Center on Saturday afternoon ready for a back-and-forth brawl. The team had a different plan for their fans, though.
The Outlaws’ faithful got to sit back, relax and enjoy watching their team dominate en route to a state championship. Suffice it to say the Outlaws scarcely gave the lady Warriors even a shadow of hope in any of the three sets played on Saturday afternoon. When asked about the adjustments she made from Friday to Saturday, Griffiths noted there were no big adjustments to make. Instead, she gave her team a challenge.
“I challenged them to be great. To leave it on the court and come out and be the team I knew they could be,” said Griffiths. “The girls realized that no one was going to hand it to us – they went in on Saturday ready to play.”
The first set in the championship match stayed relatively close at the beginning. The Outlaws jumped out to an early 4-1 lead but the Warriors were able to keep the set within a couple points. That is, until senior superstar Jordan Jerome stepped behind the service line. A kill by junior Brooke Palmer pushed the score to 10-8 in favor of Rawlins and gave Jerome the serve. With authority, she strung together three aces and forced Worland head coach Brittany Miller to call a timeout.
The timeout was no match for the momentum in Rawlins’ favor. The Lady Outlaws would allow Worland to score just eight more points, ending the set 25-17.
“We were ready for them,” said Jerome. “We knew what we had to change from the first couple of days and we made those changes and started getting down on our hits. Our defense was a lot better, too.”
Set two looked like it might be a bit closer than the previous set. Palmer scored the first point with a big kill but that was followed up with an Outlaw service error. There was a back and forth between the two teams and Worland managed to take the lead 6-4 following an ace and a kill. A monster kill by junior Aliya Edwards brought the score back within one point. Sophomore Jessie Jerome followed Edwards’ kill with an ace and a block on a Worland attack. This put the score at 8-6 in Rawlins’ favor.
Rawlins continued to push the pace and widened the score to 15-10. Worland’s coach would, again, call a timeout in an attempt to stall the Outlaws’ momentum. Her strategy was thwarted and the Outlaws dominated the remainder of the set. A kill from Jordan Jerome made the score 24-13, bringing the Rawlins crowd to its feet to rally for the win. Worland hit a kill out of bounds and Rawlins won the set 25-13.
Set three was, if possible, an even more dominant performance by the Outlaws. From a spectator’s perspective, it was easy to see the team was in its groove. Passes were flawless, blocks were working, serves were solid and the lady Outlaws were on the court having the time of their lives. A bad pass by Worland set up junior Maddie Wright for a middle kill that hit the court before Worland even knew what happened. Wright’s kill forced set and match point. The Outlaws were up 24-13, just one point away from that elusive state title.
On the final point of the game, Brooke Palmer was back to serve. Worland put up a fight and were able to dig her serve, get a good set up and a good hit. Palmer dove for the ball and kept the play alive. Rawlins volleyed it back over the net and Worland attempted another bump-set-spike. The spike went into the net, the crowd erupted and the Outlaws finally had their state title.
“I am so happy,” said junior McKenzie Earl of the victory. “We have worked a really long time for this and this state title proves what a good team we are and how we were able to come together as a team.”
There’s no denying the Lady Outlaws’ title is exciting for a school and a town that has been on a nearly two-decade state championship drought. Possibly even more exciting is the fact they will be graduating only one senior, phenom Jordan Jerome. While Jerome will leave big shoes to fill, Rawlins finishes the 2019 season in good position to make a bid for a consecutive championship. The athletes set to return next year knowing they will be in the hunt for another title.
“Obviously I’m excited to finally have the championship, but I want another one. I’m excited to get back to work and come back next year and win another,” said junior Brooke Palmer.
As if a team state championship wasn’t enough to put the entire Rawlins community on cloud nine, there is even more to celebrate. At the close of action on Saturday night, all-conference and all-state selections were made. Jessie Jerome, Aliya Edwards, McKenzie Earl, Brooke Palmer and Jordan Jerome made all-conference. Maddison Wright earned all conference honorable mention.
Earl, Palmer and Jordan Jerome also received the designation of all-state. Capping a nearly perfect senior season, Jordan Jerome was selected as the 3A south east conference player of the year. Finally, the face of the Rawlins High School volleyball program, head coach Aubrey Griffiths, was selected as the 3A south east conference coach of the year.
It’s a huge honor, it’s awesome, but I really can’t take all the credit. The girls are the reason I got it,” said Griffiths of the designation.
Rawlins High School volleyball closed out the 2019 season with a 37-5 record, a regional title and a state championship trophy. They have now set their sites on the coveted back-to-back title.
Earl said it best, “This is the greatest feeling in the world and now I want another. Go get it, girls.”