OREM – Experience and crafty defense were key Thursday evening as Morgan frustrated Desert Hills and came away with its second straight 3A volleyball championship at the UCCU Center at Utah Valley University. The Lady Trojans swept the championship away with a decisive 25-15, 28-26, 25-21 victory.
“Morgan’s players have been here before,” said Desert Hills coach Jill Swaney. “That not only helped them in set one, but also helped them close out sets two and three.”
Both teams came in playing well. They had only dropped one set each. Morgan gave a set to Dixie in the quarterfinals. Desert Hills dropped its set to Park City in the semifinals.
Morgan jumped out early on the Thunder, taking a 7-2 lead before Swaney called the first timeout of the match. D-Hills was able to get a sideout at 8-3 on a Trojan attack error. The lead quickly grew to 14-4 as the Trojan defense was blocking every attack Desert Hills threw at them.
And the Thunder committed several unforced errors. The Thunder went on a 4-1 run to tighten the score to 15-8. Another 4-1 run by the Trojans forced Swaney’s second timeout with the Thunder looking at its first double-digit deficit 19-9. A 6-2 run brought the score closer for the Thunder to 21-15 but the Trojans responded with four straight to close out the first set.
“The girls were a little tight, nervous,” said Swaney. “I told them to loosen up, to have fun and to enjoy the experience. They moved a lot better in the last two sets.”
Morgan’s defense continued to baffle the Thunder’s outside attack and the Lady Trojans took a 7-3 lead to open the second. However, the Desert Hills response was more immediate as the Thunder scored five straight, the last a service ace from Saselah Goulding, to take an 8-7 lead and force a Trojan timeout.
Morgan came out of the time out with a 4-1 run to take an 11-9 advantage. Desert Hills countered with a 4-0 run before the score was knotted at 13 by Morgan.
It became clear through the first two sets that Morgan was targeting Winters on service with more than 80 percent of serves going to her when she was in the back row.
“We were serving to both Winters and Bradley,” said Morgan head coach Liz Wiscombe. “We tried to rattle them, and if that did not work, at least get them moving from pin to pin.”
“I took it as a challenge,” said Winters. “I wanted them to keep serving me.”
Swaney agreed. “Rachel is one of our best passers and team leaders in digs. Tonight she passed with over a 2.0 rating, so their targeting of her actually helped us.”
The teams traded points on service and attack errors to knot it again at 17-17. The Thunder then went on a 3-0 run to force Morgan’s second timeout of the set. Morgan then went on a 4-1 run to force Desert Hills to call its first timeout with the score all even at 21-21.
After an attack error by Desert Hills, the Thunder got two kills from Bradley and Winters. They appeared to get to set point but a call reversal gave Morgan new life. The teams traded points and knotted it at 25 and 26. After a service error by the Thunder, Morgan took the set on a service ace to win 28-26.
In the huddle between sets, Swaney again reminded her team to stay loose, but also said to play for each other.
“We got a little testy in the first set,” said Bradley. “Coach Swaney told us we were more than teammates, we were sisters and to treat each other like that. Quit pointing fingers and be more celebratory of each other after a good play.”
The teams traded points to begin the third with the Thunder holding the slight advantage. Desert Hills then went on a 3-0 run to drive the lead to 9-5 before Morgan called its first time out. After another point from the Thunder, the teams traded points with the Thunder maintaining their five-point lead to 12-7.
Then Morgan went on a 4-0 run before the Thunder called their first time out at 12-11. After a Trojan point knotted the score, the teams traded sideouts for 12 consecutive points to get to 18-18. Morgan then scored three straight to take a 21-18 lead. Swaney called her second timeout.
Morgan kept the lead through the next few points and had match point at 24-21 when a block completed the sweep and gave Morgan its second consecutive state championship over a Region 9 team in straight sets.
Individually for Desert Hills, Winters and Bradley had 15 and 14 kills, respectively. The two also led the team with 14 and 13 digs. Harmer led the team with 26 assists and three blocks.
“After set one, Desert Hills stayed with us and took several leads through both the final two sets,” said Wiscombe. “I told our girls to keep the gas on, that we needed to take them in three. Desert Hills was too good of a team to give any momentum.”
Region 9 is not what it was last year when none of the four teams representing southern Utah lost more than one match and all four finished in the top six. This year, three teams lost twice and finished out of the top six, leaving Desert Hills as the team carrying the banner for the south end of the state.
Desert Hills 3 , Park City 1
The Lady Thunder were dominant in the first set as they crushed Park City 25-7.
“We came out to play,” Swaney said. “We told them to enjoy the moment and to play hard. Everything came together for us and we had a good first set.
The Lady Miners came back in the second, though, and maintained a 2-3 point cushion until Desert Hills caught them at 14. The Lady Miners pushed the lead back to four, scoring six of the next eight points, and leading 20-16 before Swaney called a timeout.
After a sideout, Bradley’s tough service got the Thunder back to 20-20. Three straight points by Park City brought Swaney’s second timeout. A Lady Miner block gave PCHS four straight set points. Two attack errors forced Park City to call its final timeout at 24-22. Winters delivered a kill, but Park City reciprocated on the next point to take the second set 25-23.
“We had a couple of minor issues in that second set,” said Swaney. “We made adjustments and told our girls we would be okay.”
The third set saw both teams trade points with neither holding more than a three-point advantage. DHHS went on a mini-run to turn a 9-7 deficit into a 15-11 lead before Park City called timeout. To no avail though, as the barrage continued during Winters’ service. The Lady Miners could not get a sideout till Desert Hills scored six more points for the double-digit advantage 21-11. The respite was brief as Goulding served out the set and Bradley got the kill on set point.
The fourth started out as the third with Park City taking a slight 4-3 advantage. After a sideout, Desert Hills rattled off six straight points on Bradley’s service with two kills coming from Jessica Harris and Winters. The Lady Miners would close within two to get to 12-10, but the Thunder responded with a 6-3 run to put the lead back to five 18-13. After a Maddi Esplin kill put the Thunder up six, 20-14, the Miners called a timeout. The Thunder closed out on a 5-4 run to close the match.
“Hailee Harmer did a great job setting up our middles,” said Swaney. “Bradley and Winters are our go-tos obviously, but Esplin and Harris keep them honest with the middle attacks.”
Winters and Bradley led the team with 23 and 18 kills, respectively. Bradley led the team with 25 digs. Also recording double-digit digs were Winters (14), Harmer (13) and Katelyn Taylor (12). As a team, Desert Hills recorded 15 service aces with Bradley and Clark getting four each and Goulding and Harris getting three apiece. Harris led the team with four blocks.
Morgan 3, Union 0
The Lady Trojans swept Union 25-21, 25-17, 25-7.
ONE LOSS BRACKET
North Sanpete 3, Dixie 1
Dixie’s season came to an end at the hands of Region 12’s No. 1 seed, North Sanpete 25-18, 25-27, 25-14, 25-17. Individually for Dixie, Risha Tia Tia led the team with a season high 13 kills. Kelsey Terry led the team with12 digs. Aspen Bair and Grace Bown had nine digs apiece. Ella Burrows exhibited great defense for the second straight match with six blocks.
“Obviously we are disappointed with the outcome of the game,” said Dixie head coach Stacy Leavitt. “The girls came out and gave 100 percent. Coaching these kids this year will be memorable. They showed up to practice every day, worked hard and kept great attitudes. Looking at where we started and the improvement through the season to how we were playing in the tournament showed a vast improvement. The seniors exhibited great leadership with their hard work and positive attitudes.”
Pine View 3, Stansbury 1
The Lady Panthers won their opening game the second day by eliminating Stansbury in four sets 25-10, 25-20, 19-25, 26-24. Cydnee McGuire and Emily Lantor had 16 and 10 kills respectively. Cassidy Murdock led the team with 34 assists. Kiara Rivas and Aubrey Hendrickson had nine and eight digs.
Juan Diego 3, Ridgeline 1
The Soaring Eagle dispatched newcomer Ridgeline in four sets 25-17, 25-17, 17-25, 25-7.
Juab 3, Richfield 1
SIXTH PLACE MATCH: Juab 3, Pine View 1
After winning the opening set, the Lady Panthers lost three straight to Juab 20-25, 25-15, 25-18, 25-23. Individually, Aubrey Hendrickson led with 10 kills. Kiara Rivas led the team with 12 digs. Cassidy Murdock had 10 digs and 16 assists.
FIFTH PLACE MATCH: North Sanpete 3, Juan Diego 0
North Sanpete swept Juan Diego 25-11, 25-6, 26-24. The Region 12 champions coasted in the first two sets then played several reserve players in the final match until the very end when the key players reentered the game and secured the sweep.
THIRD PLACE MATCH: Union 3, Park City 1
These Region 10 rivals played the consolation match after losing in the semifinals. Union avenged its earlier season losses to the region champion Miners 25-18, 15-25, 25-20, 25-22 to finish in third place.
The UHSAA also honored the 3A Academic All-State performers Thursday. Here’s the list from 3A:
2016 Academic All- State (3A Combined GPA: 3.997)
Katelyn Armstrong, Cedar
Grace Bown, Dixie
Ivy Begay, Grantsville
Breanna Dzierzon, Grantsville
Taylei Williams, Juab
Brookelyn Hurlbut, Morgan
Cassidy Murdock, Pine View
Sedona Reed, Richfield
Brooke Jacobsen, Ridgeline
Camryn Johnson, Snow Canyon
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