3A State Championship, Orem, Utah, Nov. 2, 2013 | Photo by Robert Hoppie, St. George News
OREM — No one gave Hurricane a chance, except the Tiger faithful. And surely even they had some doubts.
But the Lady Tigers did the improbable, beating defending-champion Desert Hills to capture the 3A State Volleyball Championship Saturday night at UVU’s McKay Events Center.
And the thing is, it wasn’t even close.
In capturing its second-ever state volleyball title, Hurricane dominated the Lady Thunder in a three-game sweep, 25-19, 25-19, 25-11. It was a stark contrast to the three previous meetings between the two teams this season. The Tigers had barely made a scratch on the seemingly unbeatable Thunder, taking just one game off of them in three matches. Hurricane had amassed a 24-7 record under coach Daniel McKeehan, but couldn’t beat the Thunder, who ended up 12-0 in region play.
Saturday’s championship match was a different story. The Lady Tigers won virtually every long rally, served better and committed fewer errors. Hurricane never trailed in any of the three games by more than a single point.
Right off the bat, the Tigers took control. Tied at 7-7 in the first game, Hurricane went on a 6-0 run two service aces, a couple of solid kills and a pair of Desert Hills hitting errors. Desert Hills was able to close within 14-11, but again Hurricane surged, scoring five of the next six points to make it 19-12. Hurricane got its biggest lead of the game at 24-16, surrendered three straight to DH, then won the first game on a Thunder service error into the net.
After the winning point in Game 1, the Tigers looked a little stunned and disbelieving of their good fortune.
The second game was similar to the first, though with a little more drama. Hurricane broke open a 14-12 battle by scoring four straight behind three spike kills and a tip, making it 18-12. At 21-15. Desert Hills called a time out to regroup, and it worked for moment. The Thunder scored three straight off a tip and two Hurricane errors to make it 21-18. That’s when McKeehan called his own 60-second time out to rally his team. The Tigers responded with three straight of their own to put the victory on edge at 24-18.
After a service error by Hurricane, the Tigers closed out the game with a block up front that clinched it at 25-19 and put them up two games to none.
This time, instead of stunned disbelief, the Lady Tigers looked calm and confident. In fact, it was the Thunder that stood in shock after the second game and, by midway through Game 3, it was clear that on this day, Hurricane was the far better team.
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In that final game, Hurricane was dominant. The Tigers led 10-4 early, but it was at 12-8 when they really took control. Hurricane served seven straight times for points, including three kills, an ace, a service winner off a net ball and two DH errors. With the score 19-8, Hurricane fans began buzzing at the anticipated championship. Another service run of four points made a 20-9 game a 24-9 certainty. The Thunder added a couple of points on a Hurricane error and a block, but one final kill by the Tigers set off a celebration and dogpile for the new champions, the Hurricane Tigers.
Libero Hannah Rich was spectacular, digging DH spike’s time and again. She finished with 12 digs in the match. A pair of seniors smashed kill after kill as Brooklyn Gubler had 15 and Shania Hurst added 11. Setter Addie Edwards had 27 assists and Malary Reid led Hurricane with 5.5 blocks.
Hurricane, which won the state title in 2008 when Dixie, Pine View and powerful Snow Canyon were 4A schools, will treasure this one for awhile. The Tigers ended the year on a six-game winning streak. Their last loss? It was 18 days ago to the Desert Hills Thunder.