St. Maries and Preston have dominated the State A-2 volleyball tournament since the event’s inception.
Time to make room for Bear Lake.
The Bears, from Montpelier, claimed their first state title by downing Wood River 15-7, 15-8 in the if-necessary match late Saturday night at Viking Gym.
Wood River of Hailey had forced a second title match with a thrilling 15-12, 3-15, 15-13 win over Bear Lake in the initial title match.
In an earlier match, Bear Lake swatted the Wolverines 15-4, 15-9.
St. Maries (22-4) placed fourth. The Lumberjacks whipped Moscow 15-2, 15-2 before being bounced by Weiser 15-13, 10-15, 15-8.
Wood River sent Weiser (31-8) home with the third-place trophy and a 15-7, 8-15, 15-2 defeat.
Bear Lake (35-8), which received key contributions from a number of underclassmen, removed most of the drama in the final match with late surges in both games.
The Bears scored the final eight points of the opening game and 8 of the last 9 in the second game.
“In that first match we hesitated too long,” Bears coach Laura Camack said. “We had to go after it and not second-guess ourselves. We had to stop letting the ball hit the floor.”
That they did, as the Bears dug nearly everything that Wood River (32-8) fired across the net.
Sophomore middle blocker Stephanie Kropushek led the Bears with eight kills and four blocks. Senior Melissa Burdick added seven kills and sophomore Mindy Saxton added 11 digs.
Burdick had two kills and Wood River committed numerous passing and hitting errors as the Bears pulled away in the opening game.
The second game was essentially a replay. Tied at 7, Saxton’s kill and junior Haley Echols’ ace helped the Bears take command while the Wolverines unraveled.
In the first title match, Wood River rode junior Kristyn Price’s power hitting to a first-game win, but the Bears rallied in the second as Echols posted game point with a service ace.
The Wolverines broke a 13-13 tie with kills by Jamie Menges and Price.
“That match was one of the greatest high school matches I’ve ever been involved with,” Wood River coach Reamy Goodwin said. “It was so back and forth.
St. Maries, shut out of the trophies for the first time in tournament history last year, rebounded to finish fourth.
Weiser avenged Friday’s loss to St. Maries with a three-game win.
“This was without a doubt the toughest A-2 field, top to bottom, in the 17-year history of the tournament,” St. Maries coach Mitch Santos said.
He should know. St. Maries is the lone team to qualify for every tourney. Santos was hoping his team could fight through the losers bracket and capture the Lumberjacks’ first title since 1993.
Standout Laura Roberts helped the Wolverines erase a 7-2 deficit in the first game. She recorded game point on a crushing spike.
St. Maries took the second game, but the Lumberjacks were called for five net violations, four at key times, in the third game.
St. Maries’ Bridgette O’Dwyer had 13 kills and 10 blocks and Kim Reid added 11 kills. Jamie Hammes finished the tourney with a team-high 54 kills.
Against Moscow (13-12), O’Dwyer and Hammes each had seven kills in a match Santos called one of his team’s best of the season.