Miners volleyball begins state title hunt with a match against East on Tuesday
Everything the Park City volleyball team has worked for all season comes down to one week.
On Tuesday, the No. 5 Miners will host No. 28 East at 6 p.m. in the first round of the Class 5A state playoffs. East finished seventh in Region 6 with a 2-12 record.
In order to win the state championship, Park City will have to win five matches in five days, no small task for any team. But according to coach Matt Carlson, the Miners are ready for it.
“When it comes down to winning state, it’s all about the mindset and the mentality you have going in and during the tournament,” Carlson said. “I really feel as if we are very close to peaking, which is exactly what you want heading into the final week of the season. Right now we are trying to get ‘calluses of the mind’ to make us mentally strong. … Because playing in the moment is what separates teams the farther you get.”
Park City concluded its regular season with a 3-0 victory over Provo on Tuesday, earning a share of the Region 8 championship with Salem Hills.
“We are very fortunate and grateful to be named co-region champs, especially because it absolutely was a goal for us entering the season,” Carlson said. “It’s been a different year for us than ones in the past, especially because we’ve had to play at such a high level at a consistent rate all season long. But it’s paying off because we are now going for a state title.”
For Carlson and the Miners, it’s been an interesting season due to the fact that it’s their first in Class 5A after establishing themselves in recent years as one of the top programs in Class 4A.
With the jump, Carlson was expecting a much tougher strength of schedule, so he prepared his team for it in multiple ways. Carlson pushed the competitive factor throughout every practice, often making them more difficult than the games themselves.
“The one thing we learned is that 5A is a lot deeper than 4A,” Carlson said. “Last year in 4A, there were a few good teams but sometimes you could get away with not playing your best and still win. … But that wasn’t the case this year. We had to play well at all times, so that level of consistency is something to be proud of.”
One thing that may bode well for Park City entering the postseason is its depth.
Carlson feels comfortable playing up to eight girls, although only six are needed on the court at one time. This gives him many options to either run a 5-1 or a 6-2 rotation, allowing the Miners to react to their opponents and execute any game plan.
“One of, if not our biggest strength, is our depth and the ability it gives us to make in-game adjustments if some things aren’t working,” Carlson said. “We have two talented setters which allows us to mix and match if a team has a big outside hitter. We also have talented liberos and middles that can pass, giving us many options. … Which in a way falls on us as coaches to make sure we get it right.”
Juniors Hayden Goodman and Brooklyn Sapp lead the Miners on offense, accounting for nearly half of Park City’s kills on the season. Junior setter Maya Lopansri does a great job of distributing the ball to her teammates, while also possessing Division I talent, according to Carlson.
Goodman leads the state in blocks with 135, as the 6-foot-2 middle combines athleticism with a strong feel for the game to anticipate opponents’ movements. Sapp is as equally talented on the defensive end, doing most of her damage in the back row, by leading the team with 326 digs on the season.
“Ultimately the goal is a state title, but we’ve had super honest talks about whether or not we can accomplish that,” Goodman said. “We believe we can beat any team, but we can also lose to any team so it depends on which version of us shows up to play. I believe that we have the best front row in the entire state, and I think we are good enough to win it all, but we’ll have to wait and see.”
With the juniors getting most of the attention on the court, the seniors have provided mentorship after playing in last season’s Class 4A state title game.
They’ve made sure that their teammates haven’t just been satisfied with the region championship, but to keep pushing, wanting and most importantly, expecting more.
“The seniors, who’ve all been there before, have been talking a lot about mindset and really driving home what we need to do to win state,” Carlson said. “Having the seniors able to talk to the girls has really allowed me to be able to talk to the players as well, especially because the bench alone can get you 5-10 points with their energy. You can’t perform in a manner inconsistent with yourself, and the seniors have been making sure that all the girls believe in themselves.”
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