North Summit earns third straight Utah state volleyball title with stunning comeback
November 3, 2018
North Summit volleyball continued its dominance of the 2A class in spectacular fashion Saturday, Oct. 27, when it defeated Enterprise 3-2 from a huge fifth-set deficit to take home its third consecutive Utah state championship. The streak started hot and has only escalated. In 2016, the Braves from Coalville vanquished their cross-county rivals, the South Summit Wildcats of Kamas, 3-1 for the 2A championship.
Last season, the Braves eked out a win over Enterprise, going 34-32 in the fourth set for title No. 2.
That, thought North Summit coach Samantha Stephens, was as close as it could get.
Then there was this year.
Last Saturday, the Braves took on the Wolves in the final at Utah Valley University's UCCU Center, where the two squads traded sets, forcing a fifth-set tiebreaker.
The last set of the season started badly for the Braves.
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Enterprise led 11-5, before North Summit came back to win the set, and the championship, 16-14.
"It was crazy," Stephens said. "Honestly, I went home and on Sunday I watched that game two more times, because I didn't even know how it happened."
The team's strength this season was no surprise. Last season, the Braves lost just one senior after taking the championship, and it went undefeated in the Class 2A's Region 16.
Their worst streak was going 3-4 in the Davis Classic tournament in Pleasant View early in the season, where most of the teams North Summit faced all weighed in above 2A.
"I always like to try to go to a tough tournament so we can get a little bit of battling in," Stephens said.
Because the team faces a lot of smaller schools, Stephens said it's hard to tell whether the Braves will face strong competition in region, so she often looks outside of 2A to toughen her team.
After the Davis Classic, it would be a long time until the Braves were challenged again. Between Sept. 11 and the start of playoffs on Oct. 26 the Braves won 19 consecutive matches, and only dropped three sets, including one to South Summit, now a 3A contender, and one to Enterprise in a non-region match.
Stephens said she had mixed feelings about facing Enterprise before the playoffs.
The Braves have beaten Enterprise in every match they've played since 2015.
"I think we might be in their heads a little bit, and it's nice to have that edge," she said.
The Braves had already played two matches by the time they faced Enterprise in the exhibition, and Stephens was worried that the team could cede their advantage over their likely state rivals.
North Summit took the first set 25-16, Enterprise won the second 21-25, then North Summit clinched in the third, 15-11.
"I didn't know how (North Summit) would be playing (Enterprise)," she said. "But they were ready. They wanted to beat them. There was no motivation needed."
The Braves brought that motivation with them when they entered the state playoffs at UVU's UCCU Center on Oct. 26, starting with a win over Rockwell Charter High School 25-4, 25-9, 25-7.
Later that day, North Summit beat Kanab in four sets; 25-14, 24-26, 25-19, 25-17.
The next morning, North Summit took on Gunnison Valley in the semifinals and won, 25-22, 25-14, 25-17.
All that was left was Enterprise.
At 4 p.m. on Oct. 27, the two rivals met again, but it was the rural southern Utah squad that came out swinging.
"It wasn't at all what we were expecting," said North Summit senior setter Hannah Lamon.
Enterprise won the first set 25-20.
The Braves won the second set 25-14, lost the third 20-25, and won the fourth 25-21.
The fifth set started to get away from the Braves early. They trailed 5-11 in a set to 15 when Stephens called a timeout.
With their season's end in sight, and a seemingly likely second-place finish looming, the players shared what the team had meant to them.
"If we were to lose the set, we wouldn't necessarily be OK, but we were grateful for the team we had been on," Lamon said, reflecting on the mood of the final timeout.
She said when the team stepped back out on the court with a sense of poise that Stephens said had come to define them. The coach had seen the Braves reel games in when the other team started to lead, and she said the state final was no exception.
"We just fired it up, got lots of runs in, and it was an amazing experience," Lamon said. "We just had this calm. We didn't worry that we were going to lose it."
The Braves tied the Wolves 14-14 to catch up, before finishing them off 16-14.
"I'm sure they felt like they had it," Stephens said of her two-time state opponents. "And I felt really bad because I'm sure they felt like they had it, then it was over." The Braves, of course, were thrilled.
That night, three engines from the North Summit Fire District met the convoy of buses and cars coming back from Orem for the town's traditional championship celebration: a late-night parade down Hoytsville Road and Main Street, up to the high school, where the team would talk with any community members who might stop by.
"You're going about 10 miles an hour and you're waking up everybody that lives on that road," Stephens said. "And they know you've taken state, because they're on their front porch flashing their porch light for you. It's pretty cool."
It was Lamon's sixth such ride, having also been a part of three state-winning Braves track and field teams, but she said the rides only get better each time.
"When you hang your head outside the bus, you can see all the parents and the community following in so many cars, and it really warms your heart to know that we have such a strong community there supporting us no matter what," she said. "It's just been such a great experience."
The team only has three seniors graduating this season: Middle blocker Brecklyn Murdock, opposite hitter Gracie Peterson and Hannah Lamon.
Both Lamon and Stephens say the team is already in good shape for next year.
The Sunday after the championships, the team picked out its state rings.
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