Four Gillette prep volleyball players have received postseason accolades for the 2019 season — three from Class 4A state runner-up Thunder Basin and one from Campbell County High School.
The all-state selections for the Bolts are senior Rigan McInerney and junior Elsa Clark. Senior Chastin Nelson received an all-conference selection, missing out on an all-state spot by one vote. Campbell County’s all-conference selection is junior Shaelea Milliron.
Thunder Basin selections
One of the staples of Thunder Basin’s run to the title match was the firepower provided by its outside hitters. Coach Wenett Martin had several to work with, but McInerney and Clark were the two the Bolts leaned on the most.
“To have two kids like that opposite of each other means that you have go-to (hitters) at all times,” Martin said. “They were crucial to the team.”
McInerney led the team with 313 kills and 53 aces leading up to the state tournament. She took a lot of swings over the season and finished with just over 1,000 attempts. Clark finished with a better hitting percentage on the season, but had fewer kills at 239.
McInerney and Clark brought that “Terminator” quality to the team with their hitting, which every state contender needs, Martin said. The two powerful hitters weren’t just effective in the front row, though. Both play all six rotations without missing a beat.
Even when McInerney rotated out of the front row, kills were still a possibility. She was one of state’s best hitters from the back this year, Martin said.
“Rigan’s attack out of the back row is amazing. There’s not a lot of girls getting kills from the back row even at the state level,” Martin said. “She’s about the only one in the back swinging that hard.”
Clark’s serve receive, which Martin called “amazing,” was a big part of the Thunder Basin defense. Out of 265 attempts receiving a serve, she only had 12 errors and a 2.31 (out of 3) average. Clark also was second on the team with 250 digs, while McInerney had 246.
Thunder Basin’s heavy hitting was usually what drew the eye and applause during games, but the accolades wouldn’t have been possible without by the play of Nelson.
“That’s a credit to the setter. You can’t have all these stats without a good setter,” Martin said. “Chastin did a phenomenal job.”
Martin wasn’t sure whether a 5-1 system was going to work at the start of the season, but it only took one tournament watching Nelson to be convinced it was the right decision.
“Being in a 5-1, I questioned whether they’d be able to do it,” the coach said. “But after week one, we never looked back.”
Nelson worked hard on her defense and serving to be able to play all six rotations and finished the season just one vote away from an all-state selection. She finished with 713 assists on the season, a 91% serve rating and helped out at the net with a few blocks along the way.
The three Thunder Basin selections were also the team’s captains, which made the voting even more satisfying.
“They led the team all year,” Martin said. “I’m so proud of them.”
Milliron was “definitely” Campbell Count’s go-to option this season, coach Marcy Befus said. But she meant much more to the team than just being a great hitter.
“She’s just kind of been our heartbeat,” Befus said. “She just leads by example and gives it her all every practice, every match.”
At 5-foot-8, Milliron isn’t the biggest player at the net, but she makes up for it with great athleticism. She led CCHS with 236 kills and 54 total blocks at the end of the season and played a big role in the back row as well.
Milliron was the team’s best player in serve receive with a 2.15 rating. The junior also ranked second on the team in digs at 282.
One of the few games that Befus could remember Milliron really struggle with this season was against Laramie at regionals. Afterward, Milliron sat down on the bench, looked right at Befus and said, “I’m sorry.”
“Not a lot of players have the maturity to do that,” Befus said. “I asked her to do a lot and we could depend on her.”