Last year, the Park City High School volleyball team didn't find its groove until late in the season. Injuries, illness and inconsistency plagued the Miners through much of their early-season schedule.
Eventually, though, the team was healthy enough to build some momentum and rode a hot streak to a sixth-place finish at the 3A state tournament.
This year, the Miners return nine seniors to a squad that only lost one player from last season to graduation. Because of that continuity, coach Ashley Driscoll has high hopes for 2014.
"We have a lot of new talent coming through and we also have a lot of returning talent, which is exciting," she said. "We have nine returning seniors I think that sets a great tone for the program and for this year."
Park City flashed its potential at times last year, Driscoll said, but it didn't do so consistently until late in the season.
"[The deep playoff run] didn't surprise me because the girls worked so hard throughout the season," Driscoll said. "Every match, it just didn't quite come together, but you could see it. By the time we got to the state tournament, everybody was healthy and I think everything just clicked. You could see the difference on the court.
"When they were playing like that, they played exactly like I knew they would and could. A lot of teams weren't expecting it because we hadn't played quite like that throughout the season."
This year, Driscoll is hoping to be able to keep the momentum from several of her players' hot summer seasons going.
"It's a testament to some of the club programs in the area, some of their offseason work and then their beach play," she said. "They're working hard through the summer and come in super strong and well-conditioned and ready to go."
With an in-shape, game-ready roster, featuring seniors Chrissy Glasmann, Sammee Thomas, Tressa Buckland, Whitney Wakefield and more, Driscoll said this might be one of Park City's best all-around teams.
"We don't have a weak position this year," she said.
That bodes well for the Miners, who play in an ultra-competitive Region 10.
"Region 10 is always really strong," Driscoll said. "Obviously you have Morgan coming back and they're always a strong team that goes pretty far in the state tournament I think they got fourth last year. I don't know how many seniors each of the teams lost, so I don't know exactly what to expect. But all of the teams were strong last year and I expect the same thing this year. With all the experience we have coming back, I expect us to do extremely well."
If the Miners can avoid the injuries and illnesses that plagued them last year, Driscoll said there's no reason they can't improve on last year's sixth-place finish this season.
"I think they're in a really good position to go very far in state," she said. "I'm hoping for that state championship, honestly. I think, with this group, it's a possibility. I think it'll all depend on how hard we work and how we come together as a team."
The first test for Park City will be on Thursday, Aug. 21, when it starts its season against Tooele, a team the Miners lost to in five sets at the start of last season.
"They're really excited that it's a home match on the first day of school," Driscoll said. "It kind of makes the whole coming back to school experience that much better. I think they'll be ready to go. It'll be a good starter to showcase where we are and where we need to go."
Thursday's home game starts at 7 p.m. in the PCHS gym.
PCHS Volleyball Schedule
Aug. 21 vs. Tooele
Aug. 29 at Dixie tournament
Aug. 30 at Dixie tournament
Sept. 4 at Brighton
Sept. 11 at North Summit
Sept. 16 at Carbon
Sept. 18 vs. Juan Diego
Sept. 23 at Uintah
Sept. 25 vs. Union
Oct. 2 at Morgan
Oct. 3 at Bingham tournament
Oct. 4 at Bingham tournament
Oct. 7 at Juan Diego
Oct. 9 vs. Uintah
Oct. 14 at Union
Oct. 21 vs. Morgan