Park City optimistic about next season with five starters expected to return
In sports, there are always life lessons to be learned.
According to Park City volleyball coach Matt Carlson, it’s his job to make sure the right message is being conveyed to his players.
“Sometimes in sports it falls your way and sometimes it doesn’t, and unfortunately for us the season didn’t fall the way we would’ve liked,” Carlson said. “Last year we won a close game and that team was heartbroken, and this year we were the team that got heartbroken. … Getting up and going back to work is what speaks volumes to the character of the girls.”
No. 5 Park City saw its season come to an end in the UHSAA Class 5A quarterfinals when the Miners fell 3-2 to Region 8 rival and fourth-seeded Salem Hills.
Park City, who tied with Salem Hills for the region championship, went up 2-1 in the match and appeared to be poised to advance.The Miners took the opening set against the Skyhawks, winning 25-22 before the teams split the next two sets by the scores of 25-17.
The wheels came off the bus in the fourth set, however, as the Miners, who found themselves trailing 21-15 early on, battled all the way back to tie the set at 23-all. But with multiple chances to get the win, Park City squandered their chances,something Carlson has yet to let go of and move on. The Miners lost 25-22, 17-25, 25-17, 25-27 and 10-15.
“I’ve watched that Salem Hills game probably 15 times already, just going over it and over it,” Carlson said. “As a high school coach, I wonder what we could’ve done better as a coaching staff and what caused us to lose. … I wonder what the girls could’ve done differently. But this is something that can prove a huge learning lesson for us if we use it for the right motivation.”
Carlson got his answer as to how his team would react after being knocked out of the hunt for a state championship, instead settling for the fifth/seventh place game as its ceiling.
Carlson got his answer when Miners returned last Friday morning to take down No. 8 Skyline before losing to No. 3 Timpview to finish seventh.
“It’s hard to play the next day when you’ve been punched in the gut, and still have to play the next day when you feel like you shouldn’t be there,” Carlson said. “But we came back on Friday, and with zero motivation, we made some up ourselves because the girls played for their teammates and their community. To play as hard as they did, it speaks loads to who they are and as a coach I couldn’t be more excited about our future.”
There’s reason to be excited for the Miners, considering what they’re expected to bring back next season.
Junior outside hitter Brooklyn Sapp and junior middle Hayden Goodman return to lead Park City both offensively and defensively. Both players are receiving Division-Iinterest already, with Sapp traveling to George Washington University for a recruiting trip and Goodman heading to Dartmouth and Brown.
Sapp, who led the Miners with 277 kills and 409 digs on the year, was recently named the AVCA Utah state player of the week for the week of Nov. 4-10. During that time period, Sapp played 17 sets and averaged 4.77 kills and 4.88 digs per set. She also finished with five aces and eight blocks.
Goodman finished tops in the state with 156 blocks on the season, as the 6-foot-3 middle blocker did a great job of anticipating opponent’s attacks. She also finished with 220 kills on the year and a .394 hitting percentage.
“Those two are definitely going to be who we look towards next year for offense,” Carlson said. “The progress they made this season, and how hard they worked, I’m excited for next season to see what they do.”
But if Park City is to take the jump next season, Carlson believes that it’s going to come down to junior setter Maya Lopansri.
Lopansri entered the season with big shoes to fill as last year’s setter, Emily Smith, is currently playing for the University of Utah. Lopansri got better as the season went along, playing her best ball at the sate tournament according to Carlson.
“She put a lot on herself this season, and seeing how she rose to the occasion in the state tournament and played out of her mind, she’s the key for us,” Carlson said. “We have the hitters, we have the liberos, and now we have the setter who will bring it all together for us. This offseason is going to be big for her.”
With the season over, Carlson is giving his girls a break and not holding anything volleyball-related for the Miners until next August, when the season gets going. Although he’s open to the idea of helping the girls if they come and ask for it, he would much rather they go out and play club volleyball.
“The girls will be playing club, and we just want them playing, getting the proper coaching and reps to get better,” Carlson said. “We let the girls go and do their own things right now because it’s their time to get as good as they can become. We want them to go play for themselves and get better, and come August we’ll create Miner nation again.”
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Park City plays in the toughest region in 5A, and coach Purcell believes that mental toughness will help turn the season around.