Sister’s season-ending injury gives Mattie Prior something to play for |

Sister’s season-ending injury gives Mattie Prior something to play for

Priors look to end senior year on high note

Park City High School senior Mattie Prior spikes the ball over the net during the second set of the evening against Murray High School on Oct. 5. The Miners have relied on Prior’s skill and leadership after her twin sister’s season-ending injury.
Park Record file photo

Attacks coming off the hands of Park City senior Mattie Prior have always looked and sounded different compared to other girls.

Prior has played on Park City’s varsity volleyball team for three years now along with her twin sister, Cassie. The two have been the Miners’ go-to weapons offensively, and this year is no different.

The Priors’ blend of height — both are over 6 feet tall — and athleticism is unique. Both are committed to play college volleyball together, and it only takes a few minutes of watching them to see why.

The thuds and smacks that reverberate from a Mattie Prior spike are louder, deeper. The ball travels at warp speed. She swings as if she’s trying to drill a hole into the floor.

But these days, she’s hitting the ball even harder, jumping even higher and hustling more. Cassie broke her wrist in three places in a match three weeks ago, which required a plate and nine screws to repair and ended her season. Since then, Mattie has been playing with more than just a chip on her shoulder.

“I’m feeling like there’s two of us in here, and Cassie’s with me every time I go,” Mattie said. “I’ve got more strength than I ever have before, so it’s super fun. Mental switch.”

Against Olympus on senior night last week, Prior was all over the place. She never left the court, rocketed 18 kills through the Olympus defense in the Miners’ sweep and was a valuable leader on a team rocked by injuries.

Her teammates have noticed the change as well. Cassie’s injury sent shockwaves through the team, but Mattie has been an unstoppable force ever since.

“We all kind of knew that her wrist was broken, and we were all upset, especially Mattie,” senior Hazel Catley said. “Mattie was crying the rest of the game, but she was jumping twice as hard and hitting twice as hard, and it was insane. The amount of power behind her was incredible, she definitely had two people in her.”

Catley met the Priors on the first day of sixth grade at Ecker Hill Middle School and was initially a little intimidated by the towering twins. But the Priors welcomed Catley with open arms, and they’ve been friends ever since. They’ve meant so much to her, in fact, that they have inspired Catley’s college essay.

“I still remember the first day of school just being like, ‘This is going to be OK, I have these two girls who love me and adore me,’” Catley said. “And they still do. I have never felt so welcome to a new place, and the twins did that, and it was just miraculous.”

The twins have always been inseparable. Mattie and Cassie have played on the same volleyball team ever since they started playing rec volleyball seven years ago and fell in love with the sport. Hatley once asked them in sixth grade if they ever fought with each other and received a heartwarming response.

“They looked at each other and they just hugged each other,” Hatley said. “I was just like, ‘Oh my gosh, that is so cute. No, you don’t. You never did.’”

But now Mattie is in foreign territory. This is the first time that either of them has been injured, as well as the first time that she has played without Cassie on the court. The laundry list of other injuries on Park City’s team heaped even more onto Prior’s plate.

Prior has risen to the occasion, burying kill after kill. She tallied a personal-high 19 kills in a match the same day her sister injured herself.

“When Cassie got injured, she just was, ‘Well, I have to play for both of (us) now,’ and so she’s just playing big-time volleyball for the program,” Miners coach Matt Carlson said. “She’s up there with some of the best outside of the state right now.

“She’s just a workhorse, and everything’s just clicking now for her. She’s just playing aggressive and with a new focus. She’s off to playing college ball next year, so I think for her it’s just like getting ready for the big leagues, so it’s awesome.”

With her sister out, she moved from right side hitter to outside hitter, changing her role on the court. Instead of being subbed out when she rotates into the back row, Prior now plays in the back row. She said that she’s had experience playing in the back row, but it’s still a change.

The twins were part of a small group of Miners who had experience playing varsity volleyball entering the season. After a rash of injuries depleted Park City’s depth this season, that experience became even more important. Sometimes, something as simple as a thunderous kill is enough to get the Miners going, especially at home.

“The whole gym just erupts when that happens, it’s unstoppable,” Catley said.

There’s no bitterness from Cassie about losing her senior season, either. Nobody is cheering harder for her sister and the Miners than she is.

“It’s hard to watch from the sidelines, but when your sister’s playing so good, I can play through her, so that turns up the vibes,” Cassie said. “I’ve been helping everyone during practices with how they should fix certain things so that Matt can focus on other girls and so they can get individual help. And I’m just the cheerleader on the sidelines helping everyone, just screaming at the top of my lungs to help them.”

The twins’ guidance and leadership has helped a revolving door of new faces fit in every game. The Miners have rarely had the same lineup in consecutive matches, and even Mattie is sometimes caught off-guard by who’s she’s playing with.

“I just talk to them like, ‘This is the gameplan, this is what we’re going to do, if you don’t understand, let me know I’ll talk you through it because I know you’ve never stepped on the court before, and you’ve never practiced with us,’” Mattie said. “They find it funny that I’m trying to help them, but it’s been good. They’ve been stepping up and getting the job done.”

Park City wraps up its regular season with a non-region match against Salem Hills on Oct. 26 before the state playoffs start on Nov. 2. The Miners were 13th in RPI out of 33 teams heading into their match against Brighton on Tuesday and sit at 12-11 (8-3 in Region 6 play). Not having Cassie hurts, but the Miners feel they’re playing their best volleyball of the season.

“We’re super excited for state, we’re definitely the (dark) horse,” Mattie said. “We’re coming to sneak up on teams, they have not seen the new Park City. We’ve been training super, super hard, and it’s paying off.”

With Mattie’s “unstoppable” swings, it’s hard to count out the Miners.


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