Miners finish fourth at 3A state tournament
As the Park City High School girls’ volleyball team walked off the court after falling in the third-place game at the UHSAA 3A state tournament Thursday, the Miners looked defeated. After sweeping Snow Canyon and Ridgeline on Day 1, the final day of competition saw the Miners suffer through back-to-back losses at UVU in Orem, wrapping up their season in a different way than they were envisioning.
“Obviously, it’s disappointing how we finished, but it’s definitely not a reflection on the year,” said Head Coach Matt Carlson.
What Carlson said was true. Despite losing in the semifinal round to Desert Hills (25-7, 23-25, 25-13, 25-18) and again right after that in the third-place game to Union (25-18, 15-25, 25-20, 25-22), this Park City team has a lot to be proud of this season.
In 2015, the team barely squeaked into the playoffs by finishing fourth in Region 10, losing in the first round of that year’s tournament. A year later, not only did the Miners, led by the seven seniors Joana Saucedo, Natasha Yaworsky, Hanna Greenholtz, Clara Schmae, Nicole Brown, Kinley Reed and Isabelle Schlegel, advance past the first round, but they went from fourth in the region to fourth in the state, an improvement that any coach would accept.
“We felt the girls had a phenomenal season,” Carlson said Thursday. “We told them to keep their heads up. It was a great year. Sometimes, in sports and life, it just doesn’t fall your way. We just didn’t play how we usually play. For whatever reason, it just wasn’t our day today.”
Desert Hills advanced to the championship with its win over Park City, where the Thunder fell to the defending state champion, Morgan, in straight sets.
Before that, though, the Miners gave the state runner-up a run for its money in the semifinal round. The Thunder boasted a trio of six-footers, one of them being 6-foot-4 Charity Bradley, the daughter of former NBA seven-footer Shawn Bradley. Park City struggled to stop Bradley and teammate Rachel Winters out of the gate, falling in the first set 25-7.
“Defensively, they’re a tough team to stop,” Carlson said of Desert Hills.
That seemed evident as Bradley, Winters and company spiked their way to that first-set victory, but there was no quit in the Miners. Looking like an entirely different team in the second set, Park City would not be intimidated, holding off a late Thunder rally to steal the second set 25-23, knotting the match up at 1-1.
Unfortunately for the Miners, they would lose the third and fourth sets consecutively. While Desert Hills’ personnel and game plan had something to do with it, Park City made some uncharacteristic mistakes that, if rectified sooner, could’ve led to an upset.
“Our serve receive really struggled. They’re a good serving team, but we really pride ourselves in good serve-receive defense. I feel like if we could’ve done that, it would’ve been a better game,” Carlson said.
After an emotional battle with the Thunder, the Miners were forced to turn around and face Union for third place. The Cougars won in four sets, and considering the Miners beat Union twice in the regular season by a combined score of 6-1, Park City just didn’t seem as engaged in that match as the semifinal one.
“Whenever you have an emotional loss, it takes a lot of mental and emotional maturity to come back and play right away,” Carlson said. “A lot of the kids, I think even us coaches, were still holding on to that previous loss. It’s something we talked about before we started the games. We have to let it go, we have to play right now.”
No matter the end result, this team, specifically the group of seniors, broke down barriers for the Park City volleyball program. The Miners finished undefeated in region play and played tough against some of the best teams in the state. While they may not have finished the way they wanted, this season was one for the books, Carlson says.
“Such a special class of [senior] girls who just changed the culture of Park City volleyball,” he continued. “We’re forever indebted and grateful to those seven girls. Obviously, I wish we could’ve had a better finish. … But it doesn’t negate the fact that they changed Park City volleyball for the future to where we’re going to be a perennial going forward. Couldn’t be more proud and thankful for that group and what they did for us this year.”
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