By Kendra Tomsic, Head Coach
Drive, Spirit, Fight was this year’s volleyball team mantra, and the 21 players who stepped on the court each day in practice and at every match certainly lived up to that motto.
Led by senior captains Ryan Aguilar, Kat Mantas, Deja Shirkey, and Jordyn VanOrman, our fun-loving, talented team came to practice each day with a mindset to improve, knowing that they would sometimes fail, but with a determination and desire to learn and grow from mistakes and to get better as individuals in order 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 fellow seniors Vika Feletoa and Jasmine Le; juniors Lauren Bates, Regan Hodson, and Lilly Swindle; sophomores Eva Aguilo, Gemma Ciriello, Bb Comeros, Emma Hare, Sophia Lieskovan, Anna Lui, Rebecca Miles, Luella Murphy; and ninth graders Greta Filippone, Emerson Lehmann, Liv Rollins, and Sarah Shakib for buying into our team culture and creating a welcoming, positive, family-like atmosphere in the gym.
Following a tough preseason schedule that included matches with 3A Judge Memorial and Providence Hall, as well as last year’s 1A state champion, ICS, and potential 2A state championship contender, 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 with it some ups and downs, and a fourth-place finish with a 4-6 record. We dominated UMA Hill Field and West Valley APA, and our losses against Draper APA, Waterford, and St. Joe were still exciting contests that featured many lengthy rallies and amazing play by our small-in-stature-but-big-on-heart, scrappy varsity team. Varsity highlights of the league season included our very successful Swing for Life pink game, a well-attended event that resulted in our team raising $2,000 to donate to the Huntsman Cancer Foundation for breast cancer research. Another match to remember was our Senior Night, where our six seniors showcased their talent in a decisive victory before a packed crowd in the Den.
Our fourth-place finish in Region 17 set us up as the #15 team in the 2A RPI and earned us the chance to host the first round of the State 2A Tournament, a match that pitted us against Rockwell and that we won handily in the Den in three straight sets to advance to the Sweet Sixteen of the state tournament, held at the Sevier Valley Center in Richfield on October 28 and 29. The double elimination tournament saw us face the eventual state runner-up squad from Kanab in our first match. Despite battling every point, we were unable to overcome the offensive firepower of the strong front line of the Cowboys and lost, thus putting us into the Consolation Tournament bracket. We next faced #7 Enterprise. Though our team fought tough every rally and gave their all in a heartbreaking 27-25 loss in the third set of the match, we lost in straight sets and were thus eliminated from further tournament play. The coaching staff was so very proud of the tenacity, heart, and never-say-die attitude and play of the team at state!
Thanks to my coaching staff—Kathy Howa, Lauren Carpenter, and Wendy Hare—whose support of the team, and me, was invaluable. A special shout-out to our six senior players, Ryan Aguilar, Vika Feletoa, Jasmine Le, Kat Mantas, Deja Shirkey, and Jordyn VanOrman, who anchored the varsity team this year and whose talent on the court and leadership by example was a key to the success we had this season. Thanks to all of you for all you’ve given to the volleyball program these past four years. You will be much missed!
The success we saw this season was a result of each player’s commitment to their role on the team—all accepted their roles without complaint and gave their all every match. We decided to give each varsity player a special award based on their contribution to the team this year, as follows: Ryan Aguilar, the Rock Solid Award for her consistent play at middle blocker; Vika Feletoa, the Blocking Beast Award for her outstanding ability to stop opposing hitters; Jasmine Le, Libero Magnifico for her stellar back-row play; Kat Mantas, Super Setter award for her amazing ability to get the ball to our hitters; Deja Shirkey, Dynamic Defender for her outstanding play as a passer and digger in the back row; Jordyn VanOrman, Coaches’ Award for her willingness always put the team first and her much appreciated help to coaches; Lauren Bates, Ms. Positivity for her always upbeat spirit and support; Regan Hodson, the Stellar Serving & Spiking Award for her talent in those skills; Lilly Swindle, Most Improved as she came on strong this year as a middle blocker; Eva Aguilo, Super Sub for her ability to step onto the court as and when needed; Emma Hare, Most Determined for her solid work ethic and coachability; and Lulu Murphy, Best All-Around Player for her ability to light up the court doing it all—passing, hitting, blocking, digging—and always with enthusiasm.
Postseason recognition thus far has gone to All-Region 17 players Kat Mantas and Lulu Murphy (Deseret News’ All-State team has not yet been selected). Senior varsity starters Ryan Aguilar, Deja Shirkey, and Jordyn VanOrman earned Academic All-Region 17 honors, and all three were also recognized with the prestigious Utah High School Activities Association Academic All-State award. Congrats!
A big congratulations to the team on a fun-filled finish to an exciting, memorable, and successful-in-so-many-ways 2022 season. You made this season one of the best ever—thank you!