Rivals North Summit and South Summit prepare for seasons without each other
North Summit and South Summit will play just once
August 11, 2017
The last time that the North Summit High School and South Summit High School girls' volleyball teams met was during last year's UHSAA 2A state title match.
The two schools battled each other three times during the regular season in 2016 before meeting in the finals. The next time the squads will meet on Aug. 24 at North Summit High School, however, will be the last time they face off all season long.
With UHSAA reclassifying schools for the 2017 sports year, the Wildcats are now competing in 3A, while the Braves will remain in 2A. Despite being local rivals, South Summit head coach Dallas Gines said the multiple matches per season will be missed after the Aug. 24 bout.
"We enjoyed playing against them," Gines said. "We will miss the rivalry, the competitive play and the friendships."
In last year's state championship, the Braves got the better of the Wildcats, winning their first-ever state championship in program history. With three players returning, head coach Samantha Stephens hopes this year's team will be motivated to build off of last year's accomplishments.
"Hopefully they're excited and want to [win state] again," Stephens said. "Hopefully [the three returning players will] step up and be leaders for us again this year."
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Two of those players — Hunter Vernon and Gracie Peterson — are coming off of injuries sustained in the offseason. Vernon has had unfortunate luck when it comes to injuries, suffering through ACL injuries to both of her knees. Luckily, one has returned to just about full strength, while the other required a second surgery in early August.
Stephens said she's told that Vernon will return by Sept. 1.
"She's an awesome player, all-around player," Stephens said of Vernon. "And a great leader for our team. We're hoping that we can get her back."
Peterson also had surgery on one of her ankles, but Stephens said she's already back in open gym sessions looking like her usual self.
"She actually looked pretty good," Stephens said. "I was surprised. We're excited. She can be a leader for our team, too. She's a great passer and did great things for us [last year]."
Despite the health hurdles, Stephens believes the Braves have a good chance of defending their 2A title in 2017.
"I really feel like we're one of the better teams this year," she said. "We have some great young talent coming in and a couple of great players returning. … I definitely feel like we can get there and play for a [state championship] again if we work hard and if everyone stays healthy."
South Summit jumps up to 4A
In Kamas, the Wildcats look to replace some of the height they lost from last season. That said, four players at key positions, such as Grace Olson at libero and Jessa Gines at outside hitter, will be returning from last year's runner-up team, so Gines hopes South Summit will be able to ride that veteran leadership to another successful season.
One of the challenges presented to Gines and company, though, is the fact they've been bumped up to 3A. The competition is stiffer, Gines said, and it's tough not to worry about that. But the only thing the head coach is focused on is improving at every opportunity.
"Really, our goal is to get better every day," Gines said. "We start off with an inspirational quote; there's always one on our whiteboard in the gym. There's a different one every day. Every player takes a turn writing one on the board. That's kind of our motivation — get better every drill, get better every practice, get better every game."
That said, the Wildcats are up for the challenge of competing at a higher level. Gines feels as if they'll still be a force to be reckoned with, but at the end of the day, she's simply grateful for the opportunity to coach another season at South Summit.
"These kids are a good group of kids and I just feel so lucky and blessed to be a part of it," Gines said. "It's awesome. I'm pumped for the season."
South Summit's season will start at home on Aug. 22 when it hosts Tooele, while North Summit begins its campaign with a home match against Bingham on Aug. 17. The two schools will face each other for the only time all season at North Summit on Aug. 24.