Park City High School volleyball is serious about its seniors
Personal letters, two kinds of blankets, flowers and life advice are on the gift list
October 13, 2017
Senior night is always special for high school teams. Most of the time, it's a simple walk out to the court or field, a parent in arm, with someone talking about the player over the loudspeaker. Maybe they get a flower.
The Park City High School volleyball team, by and large, follows that formula. But the team celebrates it with an intensity rarely seen of the old tradition.
On Thursday night, the team's five seniors took the court. Then, one by one they were introduced by junior Grace Wiczek, who read off questions they had answered the night before.
Wiczek described the questions as ice-breakers plucked from themes that often come up on the bus — favorite volleyball memories, advice for incoming freshmen, favorite words and favorite Disney characters. They also got the chance to roast one of their teammates by describing where they will be in 20 years – a big hit with the crowd.
For example, Audrey Malloy was asked, in her written statement, to say where Hali Lukasch would be.
"I can see Hali as a wedding planner for dogs while being the CEO of Petco," she wrote.
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Another: "I can see Bryn (Simmons), 6-foot-2, with a straight … spine, in Mexico doing dentistry."
After the girls were introduced, they were bombarded with gifts. Underclassmen draped the seniors in blankets (two of them) and leis (three of them), stuffed flowers into their arms, then set more gifts at their feet – a box containing a letter from each of the underclassmen, a jar of life advice from everyone, a potted plant and a plush volleyball signed by the coaches.
By the end, all the seniors could do was stand and wait to be helped off the court and fight back tears of joy.
Head coach Matthew Carlson said the juniors don't let him plan any of it.
"We put a lot of pressure on our seniors to set the culture, set the tone, set the values," he said. "Our senior leadership is fantastic this year, and I think the younger classmen realize that and I think they want to thank the seniors for what they've done so far."
After the last home region match, in which the Miners steamrolled Ogden in straight sets, the team hung around for a post-game talk and each player hugged the seniors on their way out.
"Today was so amazing," Lukasch said. "Just the emotion of it all was insane. Last night we got asked the questions about other teammates and ourselves, and I was just sitting in my room crying while writing them, because I realized it was over."
She said being on the team was "the best experience." But it's changed a lot, even over her time at Park City. She said her freshman year, before Carlson, none of the freshmen trained with the seniors, "or even really talked with them."
"So when I became a senior, my biggest thing was to become a really big family, so I got to know all of the freshmen," she said. "The seniors took all the freshmen out to lunch to make them feel welcome. The whole program, from start to finish, we are just a really great family and it's the best feeling to have."
Senior Holly Etheridge also said the day was intense, especially hearing Wiczek read what her classmate Bella Buchanan had to say about her.
"I see Holly marrying a man with a voice just as high as hers, being a successful FBI agent in Chicago with six kids," Buchanan wrote.
It was a statement so sweet and funny, it nearly brought Etheridge to tears.
"I was just trying my hardest not to cry," she said. "Just knowing you had an impact on them and they had an impact on me, it's an incredible feeling and it was hard to keep it all in."
The Miners are undefeated in region play this season and are 33-1 in region sets. The team will play Ben Lomond on Oct. 17, before traveling to the state tournament at Utah Valley University in Orem on Oct. 24-25.
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