Wildcats reach finals | ParkRecord.com

Wildcats reach finals

Jen Watkins, Of the Record staff

The South Summit High School varsity volleyball team took second place at state despite not being a top-ranked team.

Despite not being a top-ranked team going into the 2A state tournament, the South Summit High School volleyball team took second place at state on Oct. 29-30 at Utah Valley University.

"This was a great way to end my senior year," senior libero Megan Peterson said. "We were definitely more of a team (at state). We had four goals: believe in yourself, believe in your team and coaches, mind over matter, and have fun. That is exactly what we did."

Coach Becky Dees said the girls were focused, united and determined going into state. The team wanted to prove they were a force to be reckoned with, she said.

"These girls turned a lot of heads simply by being a team and believing in something greater than themselves," she said.

The Wildcats defeated the number 4-ranked team, North Sevier, 3-0 in the first match on Oct. 29. The Wildcats had 27 kills, 76 assists, 5 blocks and 27 digs.

The Wildcats then defeated Enterprise 3-2, which were ranked number 1 in its region, with 58 digs, 34 kills, 9 blocks, 135 assists, 14 aces and "an immeasurable amount of heart," Dees said.

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"We knew Enterprise would be a tough team to beat," she said. "We keyed in on our defensive strengths and made an amazing game. There were some pretty controversial calls in the game, and instead of focusing on those, we moved on."

The Wildcats were down 2-11 in the fifth game against Enterprise and came back for a surprising 16-14 win.

"When we beat Enterprise, it was the best feeling ever," team captain McKenzie Woolstenhulme said.

The Wildcats then went up against Grand, also ranked number 1 in its region, on Oct. 30.

"Grand was picked to win state by many people," Dees said. "But we knew if we played our game, we could take Grand down. The spirit and supportive nature they carried on the floor with them was felt through the stands as our fans gathered to cheer us on."

The Wildcats went on to defeat Grand 3-1 with 37 kills, 81 assists, 14 stopped blocks, 50 digs and 14 ace serves.

"We beat Grand because we believed we could," Dees said. "The rest was just details we had practiced in our minds and in the gym. It has been nine years since South Summit has been in the championship game, so this win was a huge victory in and of itself."

That win put the Wildcats in the championship game against Layton Christian where they finally lost 3-0.

"I was so proud of the team for working their way to the championship game, when so many people would have settled for fourth or fifth place given our team circumstances," Dees said. "We refused to settle for less than what we deserved."

Those "circumstances" included having gone through three team coaches in four years. This is Dees’ first year coaching and said she has no intention of leaving.

Dees is a SSHS alumna and a cancer survivor. The volleyball team dedicated a Swing for Life Breast Cancer Awareness game to Dees. Together with North Summit High School, the teams raised $3,134 for breast cancer awareness.

"We wrote ‘Freaky Beaky #21’ on our socks to honor our coach," Woolstenhulme said. "We kept our warm-up pants on to hide it so she couldn’t see it. When we finally had to take them off, she saw it and started crying. It was really cool to let her know how much she meant to us."

Senior and team captain Marci Jones said the coaches believed in the team through the whole season and the team could see "how much heart they had."

"This season was a lot of fun, and I’m proud of our second-place trophy," she said.

Junior Emily Kueser said the team set high goals.

"Before every game, we set goals that our team would meet and our own individual goals," she said. "Our coach said, ‘Volleyball was a mind game.’ We definitely played like it was. I will miss all my seniors who have influenced and pushed our team in ways I thought they could."

Lexi Reidhead contributed to this article