Park City volleyball proves it’s still a threat to win the state championship
Before Park City High School began the 2019 volleyball season, their brutal loss in last year’s Class 4A state championship game still lingered with the Miners.
Following a thrilling 3-2, five-set victory over Lehi in the semifinals in which Park City was both mentally and physically drained, the Miners were swept by Sky View 3-0 in the championship.
“The semifinal match was an epic five-setter that was everything you’d ask for in drama and a win,” said Matt Carlson, Park City volleyball coach. “But an hour later we had to turn it around for the finals match. … No excuses at all because we lost but our “Our girls were pooped and just emotionally spent.”
Instead of seeking revenge against Sky View this year, however, Park City’s volleyball program along with much of its others were moved up to 5A this season following reclassification by UHSSA. The jump up a class came with the expectations of a tougher schedule.
“5A is unique because it’s a little more deep, but we feel confident that we still know the competition inside and out,” Carlson said. “I think personally there’s about eight or nine teams that can beat each other at any time and win the state championship. … And I believe we are one of them.”
Halfway through the season, it’s safe to say that Carlson knows what he’s talking about.
After a season opening loss to Region 8 foe Maple Mountain, one of the top teams in the state according to Carlson, Park City won 9 of its next 11 games, including three straight in Region play.
“I think anytime you can play a good team early in the season, especially in a situation like the one we were in, it’s a great thing,” Carlson said. “Everyone has a good game plan until you get punched in the mouth and that first game in 5A, let alone Region, was a wake up call. … One good thing that was awesome was that as bad as we did, we had no place but to go up from there and that’s what we’ve done.”
Although not as veteran as last year’s squad, this year’s group of Miners is a lot deeper than in teams past. Where Carlson might’ve had to rely on two star players to carry the load, such was the case last season, this year there are multiple players who’ve stepped up over the course of the season.
“When one girl is having a bad day, typically another girl has stepped up in her spot and played really well,” Carlson said. “As coaches, we totally get it when someone has an off day. … But being so deep and able to rotate 12-13 girls in each match is huge for us. It’ll help us stay fresh as the season goes along so when we come to playoffs, we will have girls who have game experience and will be ready.”
The four Miners who’ve played the most sets this season are all juniors, with setter Maya Lopansri and middle Hayden Goodman leading the way. Of the top 10 players who’ve played the most this year, it breaks down with two sophomores, five juniors and three seniors.
While depth may be abundant at this point in the season, Carlson acknowledged that as the season progresses he wants to get down to about eight players he plays on the regular and in the postseason. Getting down to a top-eight will allow those players to develop a sort of chemistry with one another that will pay dividends in Park City’s quest for a 5A state championship.
“Right now we want to win and put us in the best possible spot for the best possible seed when it comes to the state playoffs,” Carlson said. “More than anything though, we want to hit our stride later in the season with our main players. … We want to get that flow going with those eight or nine girls and then really take off when the postseason is here.”
According to Carlson, part of winning right now for the Miners is two-part system the coaching staff.
The first part is planting the seeds to make sure Park City continues it growth and upwards trajectory. According to Carlson, this is done through the mentally and physically intense training sessions the team has upcoming — laying down roots so that when the going gets tough, the Miners will have something to fall back on.
Once those seeds are planted and take root, the second part is about setting “fuel to the fire to stay hot” is how Carlson described it. That means that doing what it takes to make sure the girls are confident and playing well once the playoffs arrive.
Following the loss to open the season, Carlson said that the bus ride home is when things started to change for the Miners. Not only was it a rude awakening at the 5A level, it caused the girls and coaches to look at what had transcribed over the preseason training and make the necessary changes.
“On the bus ride home, instead of it being quiet and the girls down and sad, we talked the entire ride home,” Carlson said. “We talked about what we can do differently as a team and individually. … It was a great thing that happened because it got all of us out of our comfort zone and allowed us to grow and take that first step in the right direction.”
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Park City native Sebastian Saucedo fulfilled his dream of playing for his local team. Now he’s trying to take a step forward playing in Mexico.