"I think if there's a best way to end a season, it's to go out swinging," said Park City volleyball head coach Ashley Driscoll. "They didn't want the last match of the season to be a match they didn't show up to.
"The girls went in and laid it all out on the court, and they played every point like it was their last, and it was a really, really great match. There wasn't a single person on the court who wasn't completely committed to every point, which was great to see."
After a tough first-round 3-0 loss to powerhouse Morgan Friday afternoon at the 3A state tournament at Utah Valley University in Orem, the Miners bounced back to give the North Sanpete Hawks a tough fight. Despite falling behind 25-10 in the first set, Park City responded with a 25-12 second-set win. The Hawks won the third set 25-20, but the Miners wouldn't go quietly, winning No. 4 by a tight 25-22 margin. The consolation match went to the fifth set where the Hawks bested the Miners 15-11, ending Park City's 2012 season.
The loss dropped the Miners' overall record to 16-14 this year, but it's the first time the program has finished above .500 since 2008 when Park City finished 21-9.
The first match against Morgan wasn't pretty for Park City (25-7, 25-13, 25-6). Driscoll said her young team was a little nervous going into the tournament against such a high-profile opponent.
"We never got our game going," she said. "(Morgan) had the lead and the control of the match the whole time. I think a lot of it was first-game jitters, being at state, going up against Morgan."
Driscoll said she was glad to see the season end on a somewhat positive note. However, the tough loss to Morgan, the Miners showed fight and grit in five sets against North Sanpete, which she said should help Park City going forward.
"Just the experience of having gone to state and having competed at state will be a huge benefit for us next year," she said. "It was a young team and having a lot of these girls returning -- we even had some girls on the bench just watching -- just the experience of what state is like, that experience will definitely help us next year."
But first, the Miners will have to replace a senior class that featured team leaders such as Sierra Shearer, Megan Glasmann, Laura McLevish, E.J. Elliott, Brooke Newhall and Carson Lyman.
"Their leadership was phenomenal," Driscoll said. "Being a first-year coach, I relied heavily on them. They stepped up to the challenge every single time. They had positive attitudes and were encouraging. All the underclassmen wanted it for them as well. That shows a lot about their character and how strong the senior class was."
Asked what Park City must do to become a threat in Region 10, Driscoll said her younger players must play as much volleyball in the off-season as possible, while the junior class must be prepared to step into key leadership roles.
The Miners have several key players returning in 2013, including Hailey Whipple, Sammee Thomas, Tress Buckland, Chrissy Glasmann, Whitney Wakefield and Jo Henry.
"That is a big comfort," Driscoll said. "But we are losing that leadership aspect. We have lots of strong players in the program and that's what building a team is all about."