By Kendra Tomsic, Head Coach
Teamwork, Grit, Fun was this year’s volleyball team mantra, and the 26 players who stepped on the court each day in practice and at every match certainly kept those key words at the forefront of their play.
Led by senior captains Ella Espenes, Ella Houden, Casey Maloy, and Enna Mustajbegovic, our fun-loving, talented team came to practice each day with a mindset to improve; they knew that they would sometimes fail, but they had a determination and desire to learn and grow from mistakes and to get better as individuals so that our team would get stronger—while at the same time keeping an element of fun going all the time. That mentality paid big dividends! Thanks much to our captains and seniors Kylee Lacy, Jezzie Sammons, and Tina Su; juniors Ryan Aguilar, Vika Feletoa, Jasmine Le, Kat Mantas, Aileen Robles, Deja Shirkey, and Jordyn VanOrman; sophomores Lauren Bates, Regan Hodson, and Lilly Swindle; and ninth graders Dylan Bookhamer, Bb Comeros, Abby Downs, Emma Hare, Sophia Lieskovan, Anna Lui, Rebecca Miles, Luella Murphy, Chase Noteware, and team manager Gemma Ciriello for investing in and living our mantra all season long.
Following a solid preseason schedule that included matches with 3A Judge Memorial and Providence Hall, as well as 1A State Champion ICS and last year’s 2A state runner-up Millard High—all tough competitions during which we tweaked our varsity lineup numerous times—the team was well prepared to start region play in mid-September.
League play in Region 17 brought much success for our teams at all levels of play: the junior varsity (JV) team posted a 6-4 record, the frosh team went 4-4, and our varsity team ended the season at 7-3; varsity’s only losses came at the hands of archrivals St. Joe (two losses) and Waterford in some exciting contests that featured many lengthy rallies. Varsity highlights of the league season included a two-sets-down, come-from-behind, five-set victory over Waterford before a packed house in the Den on blackout night, an undefeated run in the Wendover Tournament, and a solid second-place finish at the 1A/2A Clash Tournament in Richfield, where we narrowly lost to nemesis St. Joe in a five-set barn burner. Our pink night breast cancer fundraising match in mid-October was a huge success, as our team and those who came out to support the game that night helped us raise over $3,000 for breast cancer research at the Huntsman Cancer Institute.
Our third-place finish in Region 17 set us up to host the first round of the State 2A Tournament, a match that pitted us against UMA Hillfield and that we won handily in the Den in three straight sets to advance to the Sweet Sixteen of the state tournament, held at Utah Valley University in Orem on October 29 and 30—the first time the team qualified since 2018, due to COVID precautions. The double-elimination tournament saw us face a tough American Heritage squad in our first match. Despite battling every point, we were unable to overcome the offensive firepower of the Patriots and lost, thus putting us into the consolation bracket. We next faced Draper APA; after an unexpected first set loss against a team we had defeated twice earlier in the season, our athletes buckled down and showed the grit and teamwork that had become our trademark during the season. They battled back to win the next three sets, capturing the victory and a chance to continue playing on Saturday, with an opportunity to place in the top eight in the tournament.
Our opponent for Saturday morning’s match was a talented North Sevier team. Although all three sets were hotly contested and featured numerous exciting rallies, we lost to the Wolves in straight sets and were thus eliminated from further tournament play. We finished in the top 12 in 2A volleyball, an accomplishment that we are all very proud of!
Thanks to my coaching staff—Kathy Howa, Chloe Coleman-Houghton, and Kacie Turcuato—whose support of the team, and me, was invaluable. A special shout-out to our four senior players, Enna Mustajbegovic, Ella Houden, Casey Maloy, and Ella Espenes, who anchored the varsity team this year and whose talent on the court and leadership by example was key to the success we had this season. Kudos also to seniors Tina Su, Kylee Lacy, and Jezzie Sammons, who were key players on the JV team all season and helped lead that squad to much success this year as well. Thanks to all seven of you for all you’ve given to the volleyball program these past four years—you will be much missed!
End-of-season awards went to Casey Maloy, MVP; Enna Mustajbegovic, Heart of a Lion Award; Ryan Aguilar and Deja Shirkey, Coaches’ Award; Jordyn VanOrman, Most Improved; Ella Houden, The Wall Award; Ella Espenes, Super Server Award; Chase Noteware, Offensive MVP; and Jasmine Le, Defensive MVP.
Postseason recognition thus far has gone to All-Region 17 players Casey Maloy and Enna Mustajbegovic (Deseret News All-State has not yet been selected). Senior varsity starters Casey Maloy, Ella Houden, and Ella Espenes earned Academic All-Region 17 honors, and Casey was one of 10 2A volleyball athletes to be recognized with the prestigious Utah High School Activities Association (UHSAA) Academic All-State award.
A huge congratulations to the team on a wonderful finish to an exciting, memorable, fun-filled, and very successful 2021 season—you were the highlight of my every day and are champions in my book. Thank you!