Park City volleyball seeks recognition as high school’s most prominent sport
Park City senior volleyball players Grace Wiczek and Emily Smith have been important forces on the team for years. The two have been playing together since they were 13, and helped the Miners secure their first state volleyball championship last season. They said it is strange to think about graduation after being so involved wih the program.
“It’s weird, I can’t believe we’re seniors,” said Wiczek, the team’s leading outside hitter, after a win against Stansbury on Tuesday.
“It’s really scary,” said Smith who was voted last year’s Class 4A state most valuable player by coaches.
But they aren’t letting that sensation get in the way of setting big goals.
The two said reaching the state playoffs has gone from a goal to an expectation, so they have started seeking something larger — namely, establishing the program as a powerhouse and making clear that the path to the state title runs through Park City.
“When you think of Park City High School, we want you to think of the volleyball program and the work they put in,” Wiczek said. “If someone walks into our gym, we want them to know that we are the defending 4A state champions, without a question. We want to be that perennial program at Park City High School that Park City is known for.”
The seniors acknowledged that establishing volleyball as PCHS’s most prominent program will be difficult, especially when the Miners have 10 consecutive state titles in boys golf, and extremely strong programs in lacrosse, swimming and tennis. But they said the mindset is different for volleyball.
“They have to keep going, and we are just starting, so it’s a hunt for us,” Smith said.
That hunt has been largely successful so far this season. The team’s only losses have come in non-region games, mostly against schools in higher classifications. It has won both of its Region 11 matches so far.
But the opening match against Stansbury showed that the team still has work to do.
“We mirror other teams right now, which means we don’t have an identity for ourselves,” said coach Matt Carlson.
Carlson said it’s expected that the Miners will still be finding their footing early each season, but he hopes to see the team find its “Park-Cityness” — the thing that has defined each team that has come before them — in the upcoming weeks.
The Miners, hamstrung by net violations, missed serves and poor passing, trailed the Stallions 15-4 in the first set. But then things started to click.
After a timeout, the Miners put together an impressive comeback and won the set 27-25, then took the following sets 25-21 and 25-13.
“At the end of the day, I think we did what we needed to do,” Wiczek said. “We did not play how we were hoping to play based on the goals we had established at the beginning of the season, but it’s also the first region game and it’s just a starting point. It’s going to have no bearing as to how we play the rest of the season.”
Smith and Wiczek are, of course, just two players. Junior Jane Glasner, senior Dalton Dailey, sophomore Sarah Pillman, senior Malia Brady and senior Lauren Carr will see a lot of playing time this year. So will sophomore middle Brooklyn Sapp, who Smith said is bringing a level of physicality to her position that hasn’t been seen before at PCHS.
After beating the Stallions, the Miners defeated Tooele on Thursday in straight sets, 25-18, 25-16 and 25-19.
For the seniors, the season is already flying by. And while the team is focused on building a dynasty that will last after the current crop of players graduates, Smith and Wiczek are also hoping to remember each moment along the way.
“There’s truly something special about the Park City volleyball program — from the coaches to the freshmen, the whole program,” Wiczek said. “I’m very grateful to be a part of it, and I’m just excited to see what we will do this year.”
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Chase Campbell, a Park City High School sophomore, has a busy summer schedule, including the USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships on July 22-23.