MURTAUGH — No season is perfect, but the Oakley High School volleyball team has come pretty darn close.
The Hornets (17-1) earned a hard-fought Shoshone 25-19, 27-25, 25-19 sweep in Tuesday night’s 1A Division I Snake River Conference title match at Murtaugh High School.
Oakley went 12-0 against conference opponents this season. The one blemish was an early season loss to Wood River, which plays in the 4A Great Basin Conference.
“We knew we had some tall girls. If we could stay healthy, we knew it was gonna be a huge possibility,” Oakley coach Sherri Power said of the 12-0 record. “We’re going into state knowing we can win games.”
Oakley built a 19-10 lead in the first set, but Shoshone kept hanging around. The lead never felt in danger of disappearing, but the Indians made the Hornets work for their win.
The second set was more back-and-forth early on, but Oakley appeared to pull away when it built a 19-13 lead. Once again, Shoshone scraped away at the deficit, but the set seemed destined to finish like the first when Oakley went up 23-19.
But the Indians went on a 4-0 run to tie it up. They also avoided defeat down 24-23 and 25-24. Oakley, however, buckled down and escaped with the set victory.
“We all came together,” Oakley senior setter Blakely Payton said. “We were super excited, but we had to settle down, keep our keeps and play our game.”
The final set followed the same trends as the first two. Shoshone hung around, but Oakley kept enough distance the whole way through. And this time, the Indians didn’t have a late-set comeback.
Oakley beat Shoshone in four sets both times they played in the regular season.
“We always know it’s gonna be a hard game against them,” Payton said.
For Shoshone, Monce Rivas had 12 kills, Cierra Hennings had 11 kills and Bailee Owens and Patti Fitzgerald combined for 18 assists.
The second-seeded Indians play the winner of Hagerman-Valley on Thursday in a loser-out match.
For Oakley, Payton dished out 36 assists, senior Rachael Mitton had 18 kills and four blocks, senior Makinlee Cranney had 10 kills and six blocks. Liz Hardy and Aubryn Bedke each had nine blocks.
“That was the game tonight, our blocking,” Power said. “We hardly had any errors, too. We played a really strong game.”
Oakley won its first district title in years. Power wasn’t sure exactly how long it’s been, but she said it’s the first conference championship in her five years as head coach.
The Hornets, who have six seniors on their nine-player varsity roster, will also be making their first trip to state since 2015. They’ll face the No. 2 seed out of District 3 on Friday, Oct. 27 at Lewis-Clark State College.
“We’ve worked really hard,” Mitton said. “We’ve got a great team.”