Miners fall short of season goal with loss in quarterfinal of state volleyball playoffs
For the first time in three years, the Park City volleyball team will not be playing for the state championship.
After beginning the Class 5A state championships with victories in the opening two rounds, the No. 5 Miners found themselves matched up with No. 4 Salem Hills in the quarterfinals. Park City, which shared the Region 8 championship with the Skyhawks, fell in heartbreaking fashion by losing 3-2, ending its quest for a state title.
“In a game like that, obviously you had multiple opportunities to win, especially that fourth set, but we made some mental mistakes in the end and it cost us,” said Matt Carlson, Park City’s coach. “Props to the kids because they were trying they hearts out. That fifth set was, you could tell we were out of it a bit and everything had changed, but tried hard until the very end.”
Before falling to Salem Hills, the Miners beat No. 12 Box Elder 3-1 before returning 45 minutes later for their match with the Skyhawks. Carlson is not one to make excuses for his team, especially considering the Miners had multiple chances to get the win against Salem Hills, but the quick turnaround clearly took its toll.
“One part is that we’ve got to do a better job of making sure to condition our athletes and make sure we are better prepared for these moments,” Carlson said. “Getting that experience of playing in a grueling environment like this, it was hard for us today but will be better for us tomorrow.”
The Miners took the opening set against Salem Hills, winning 25-22 before the teams split the next two sets by the scores of 25-17. The fourth set is where the drama unfolded as the back-and-forth affair eventually ended with Salem Hills winning 27-25.
Park City found itself trailing 21-15 late in the set, struggling with its rotation and not looking crisp. But things changed when juniors Hayden Goodman and Brooklyn Sapp returned to the front row, enabling the Miners to mount a comeback. With junior setter Maya Lopansri continuously finding the positive matchup for Goodman and Sapp and senior Izzy Sandston serving, Park City tied the set at 23.
The teams then traded points before back-to-back errors ended the set and sent the match to the fifth and final set.
“We had our chances, I mean we were right there, but those two plays in the end hurt,” Carlson said. “In the end, though, we were right there so that’s good. … You look at it because the communication stopped in the fifth set and we were dead, but we were still right there.”
Much like last year’s loss in the state Class 4A state championship game, played after Park City went through an emotional roller coaster in a semifinal victory, the Miners struggled getting up emotionally for the fifth set.
Park City committed more service, hitting and receiving errors in the fifth set than it did in the first four sets combined. The team, though, did not quit fighting until the end.
With the dream of a state title dashed, Carlson and his staff feel for the Park City seniors: Sandston, Kylie Farber, Lizzie Winstead and Jade Moffat. Carlson has often said their dedication to the program, along with their leadership on and off the court, was vital to the team’s success.
“First and foremost, our hearts go out to all our seniors because you know the wanted it so bad,” Carlson. “It’s a hard lesson to learn for the seniors but it can’t overshadow everything they’ve done for us since day one.”
But there are lessons to be learned, from both the coaching staff and the players.
According to Carlson, figuring out the way to get through the emotional highs and lows of the state tournament, and physically becoming stronger to handle the environment, are essential if Park City wants to go further next season.
For the players, the lessons could pay huge dividends in the future. On the court for the majority of the day were two sophomores and three juniors, all of whom are expected back for another run at the title next year.
“There were a few mental mistakes that cost us a chance in the semifinals, but we can learn from them,” Carlson said. “Now it’s about learning how to get better in this sort of atmosphere so we can be ready and better for next year. … Because we expect to be back.”
The Miners returned to action on Friday with a 3-1 victory against No. 8 Skyline to advance to the fifth-place game against Timpview later that afternoon. They lost that game, and finished in seventh place class 5A.
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The Miners are truly a brotherhood, relying on one another to help their teammates go farther. After a few players missed last year’s 4A state semifinal game, this year’s group made sure those guys got the chance to experience this year’s semifinals. When injuries last week had the chance to derail the season, unsung heroes stepped up for the win. Now No. 1 Park City faces No. 2 Sky View in the 4A state title game on Friday at Rice Eccles Stadium.