Miners take first-ever sixth place at State
The Park City High School volleyball team’s undefeated regular season, region championship and all-around history-making run finally came to a close this Friday as the Miners took sixth place — the Park City highest team finish ever — in the 3A Utah High School State Volleyball Championships at Utah Valley University (UVU).
"The girls did great and they hung in there," said Park City co-head coach Dusty Dvorak.
Even with the historic sixth place, things didn’t pan out exactly as the Miners had planned. In the first round of the championships Park City lost to Delta in three close games, 25-18, 25-23, and 25-23. Dvorak felt that if the Miners had been able to play just one game right before the Delta match, they could have easily won.
"It takes a while to play our game," he said.
He admitted that the team was slightly off in the first game and thought that nerves had a lot to do with it. This was the first time in years that the girls had come in as the No. 1 seed and had never come in undefeated in regular-season play, so that type of pressure experience was new to them.
"It puts more pressure on you when you’re actually competing," he said. "In this circumstance, there was a lot of pressure."
Dvorak figured that if Park City had played Delta 10 times, they probably could have won at least seven of those games. The Miners actually been scheduled to play North Sanpete in the first game and had prepared for that team, but a coin toss to break a tie between Delta and North Sanpete pitted Delta against Park City instead. Dvorak felt that if the Miners could have moved on in the championship bracket, they could have done some damage. He added that many of the best teams were a bit more vulnerable than in years past and wished that the girls had been given the opportunity to test themselves against them.
"I expected us to be in the top two or three," Dvorak said. "I’ve seen Carbon, Hurricane [which took the state title] and Morgan play. On my opinion, with the proper game, we could compete. We just didn’t get the chance."
Park City coach Donna Hall also wished the team had received another chance. With the structure of the state tournament, once a team loses it is immediately put in a consolation bracket where it can’t finish higher than sixth even if it wins the rest of its games.
Instead, teams that finished first in their region but lost in the first game were forced to play teams they had played all year long, in consolation play.
Park City rose to the challenge, though, and went undefeated in the consolation bracket.
"I was inspired that despite the first loss, they were able to win every match after that," Hall said. "Usually it’s hard to fight back."
She said that senior hitter Nicole Bishop helped the team to stay on the right track mentally.
"It was her spirit that guided us through," she said.
The team finished its run beating region nemesis Judge in five games, 25-20, 21-25, 23-25, 25-22, 15-6 to earn the sixth-place medal. The girls came back from being down 2-1 to get the win.
"They fought back and made adjustments and won the whole match," Hall said. "They showed a lot of heart."
The consolation quarterfinals were basically a replay of the season as all four teams were from Region 10. While playing these teams again might sound easy, Dvorak said it actually made the task harder as every team was very familiar with the others after meeting 2-4 times during the season.
"The great thing about Park City is that we beat everyone we should have beaten," Dvorak said. "I think every time you play a team the harder it is to beat them. In the region, we have earned a lot of respect."
Dvorak said the best part of the team’s effort at the state tournament was how well they played as a team.
"I’m a believer that volleyball is a team-oriented sport," he said. "It was truly a team effort."
Once he had named every girl that made big contributions hitters Nicole Bishop and Lizzy Silverstein, who led in kills; setter Aundrea Hargroder, who led the team in assists; clutch play from Hannah Winkelman and Courtney Hoyt; and solid play from Jessie Pitcher and Hallie McGee he had covered almost everyone on the team. Hall added that Hargroder showed special heart at the tournament.
"I don’t thinks she gets enough credit for all the work she does on the court," she said. "The whole season-long she has been that extra umph. She really worked her butt off. Her setting is the key to the game."
Much of the Park City team will graduate this year and so the tournament experience they gained this year may not fully carry over to next year, but Dvorak said it should help this year’s juniors to lead the team next year. Dvorak, a former Olympic gold medalist in volleyball, also hopes to continue the volleyball programs in Park City by forming a limited top-level prep club team for local girls to play on year round.
"They start late in Utah," he said. "I’m trying to prepare them for next year."
He is also hoping that this year’s success will help to increase interest in general in volleyball in Park City and draw a bigger fan-base for the high school squad.
"I think they could build a program here and be really dominant," he said.
He said that as people realize the fun environment, the team camaraderie and the success of the volleyball team, the excitement may grow.
Dvorak should know. He resisted coaching for a while, but came in after seeing the positive attitude the team had.
"This group of girls just drew me in and I really had a wonderful time," he said.
The Braves had another strong run at state, surviving until the semifinals before falling to Richfield, the eventual 2A state champions, in three games 25-7, 25-21, and 25-20. North Summit lost to San Juan in three hotly contested matches, 25-23, 28-26, 25-19, to take fourth place in the state tournament.
Outside hitter Sofia Stephens and setter Jenessa Williams both received tournament honors for their play.
The Wildcats came in right behind their Coalville neighbors, taking fifth place in the 2A state tournament. South Summit lost to South Sevier in the second round of the tournament 29-27, 25-20, 25-18, and then went undefeated in the consolation bracket to finish fifth.
North Summit and South Summit had finished first and second in Region 14 play, respectively.
For complete results, see B-4.
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