OREM -- It sure wasn't easy, but with two wins each, the Morgan Trojans and St. Joseph Jayhawks have advanced to today's semifinals in the state 3-A and 1-A volleyball tournaments.
Both teams escaped five-set matches on Friday, doing just enough to make it to the second day on the winning side of the brackets. The two teams will finish their seasons today. In the second 3-A semifinal, Morgan will face Snow Canyon beginning at 12:30 this afternoon in a rematch of last year's title match. The winner will advance to tonight's championship, which is scheduled for 8 p.m.
Meanwhile, in the 1-A semis, the Jayhawks are geared up for a tough match against perennial power Rich, which beat the Jayhawks in four sets on Sep. 29. The first serve is set for this morning at 10:30. The 1-A championship game will begin at 5:30 p.m.
All games are played in the UCCU Center on the campus of Utah Valley University.
In Morgan's first match on Friday, the defending champion Trojans blew past Park City in as quick a match as you'll probably ever see in a state tournament, 25-7, 25-13, 25-6.
Cassidee Lish pounded out 10 kills and had three kills to go along with six service points. McKenzie Schenk added seven kills and three blocks, while senior Aspen Thompson finished with 11 digs. Little sister Casey Thompson 13 digs and 14 service points, including five aces.
In the quarterfinals, Morgan matched up with Dixie, a very strong third-place team out of Region 9. The Trojans eked out a win in a tightly-contested quarterfinals match against Dixie last year. Friday's match was even tougher.
The Flyers, led by outside hitter Hannah Harrah, cruised to a 25-17 win in the first game and the Trojans looked like they might be on the ropes.
But these Trojans never seem to get down or frustrated. They just keep fighting.
Morgan won sets two and three, narrowly lost game four, and then finally put Dixie away with a 15-10 victory in the final set.
"That dang Dixie," Morgan coach Liz Wiscombe said. "They are a good team and they're always hard to beat. We came out a little bit flat, but I'm proud of these kids. They stayed together and didn't get rattled and nobody got mad at each other. That's the neat thing about this team. Nobody picks on each other or gets after each other. They stay together like no other."
With the Trojans clinging to a 13-10 lead in fifth game, Morgan's Katie Peterson made the play of the night. She made a miraculous diving save off a block near the net and then bounced right back up and smacked a kill just inside the back line for a point. It was an astonishing play that gave Morgan fans something to cheer about.
"Katie was amazing on that play," Wiscombe said. "It was just phenomenal. She saved it off the block and then she gets up and just pounds the ball. That was a very aggressive move and it was awesome."
"I just wasn't going to let the ball drop," Peterson said. "It was getting close to the last of the game and I wasn't going to give them any easy points."
The Trojans hope to carry their momentum into this afternoon's rematch with Snow Canyon.
"We're all best friends and we go out and play for each other and play as a team," Peterson said. "We're all so positive. I think that's one of our greatest advantages"
Against the Flyers, Lish led the way with 17 kills, 15 digs and 15 service points, including three aces. Schenk added nine kills, five digs and four blocks, while Casey Thompson finished with 19 digs and three aces. Peterson ended the match with nine kills and four digs, while Rachel Kuns had eight digs and four blocks.
St. Joseph keeps inching toward a spot in the championship game and hopes that this is the year to do it. Two years ago, they reached the semifinals and were swept by eventual champion Panguitch. Last season, they got to the semis again, but were knocked out in five grueling sets to Monticello, which also went on to win the title.
This time around, the Jayhawks believe it might their turn.
"It's really exciting," said Jayhawks star Britt Sederholm. "It's our third year here and this year we're hoping for a better result. We're just going to come out and give it all and put it all out on the court. There is some pressure, but we want it so bad. We've been working at this for months - since our freshman year really. So there is pressure, but it's really fun."
Oddly enough, the Jayhawks almost never made it out of the first round. They struggled mightily against Wayne, the fifth place team from Region 20, which had to play a play-in match just to make it into the tournament.
In a match that began at 8 a.m. on Friday, Wayne won the first two sets, 25-20 and 25-16 against the Jayhawks, who looked as though they wished they were still in bed.
"I do not like playing at 8 a.m.," St. Joseph coach Ray Franklin said. "And if I could petition that somehow to never have to do that again, I would."
But St. Joseph bounced back. In the third game, the Jayhawks jumped out to a 9-2 lead and seized the momentum they could never get in the first two sets. They swept the final three sets, 25-16, 25-13 and 15-9 to advance to the quarterfinals.
Sederholm led St. Joseph with 18 kills and 13 digs, while Jessie Bischoff had 15 kills. Jayhawks libero Mady White topped everyone with an amazing 33 digs.
In the quarters, St. Joseph, this time very much awake, wasted little time knocking out Panguitch, 25-13, 26-24, 25-22.
"We played better, obviously, than we did this morning," Franklin said. "We still didn't play as well as we can, but the girls are playing better and better and they really want to perform well this weekend. All these teams come to play, but I think whoever ends up winning this thing is going to do it because they want it more."
Sederholm led St. Joseph against Panguitch with 20 kills, 11 digs and three solo blocks. Bischoff added 10 kills and four digs, while White contributed 15 digs. Audra Thurston added five kills, while Emily Jackson had 21 set assists in each match for the Jayhawks.
Also playing in the 1-A tournament is Layton Christian. The Eagles played a wonderful first round match against Duchesne, winning in four sets, 27-25, 25-19, 15-25, 25-12, but a scheduling quirk had them playing in the quarterfinals barely an hour after their first match concluded.
Unfortunately for LCA, they had nothing left in the tank, which was bad news considering they were playing defending 1-A champion Monticello. The Buckaroos knocked the Eagles into the consolation bracket with a lopsided 25-14, 25-14, 25-20 sweep.
"You just hate to lose, especially when you go down not playing your best," LCA coach Angie Hopes said. "We barely had time to grab a bite to eat (after the first match) and then it was right back in. We're fighting injuries and then when you're tired, it's hard to come out and have to play a tough team. But that's no excuse. You have to be ready to play at any moment."
In the match against Duchesne, LCA racked up the statistics, led by freshman phenom Felicia Marshall, who had 23 kills, 13 digs and four aces. Middle blocker Tanisha Davison had 13 kills and was amazing at the net with 12 solo blocks. Zakiya Harris added nine kills, while libero Daydria Walker finished with 20 digs. Brianne Nichols had 26 set assists.
But against Monticello very little went right for the Eagles. Harris finished with eight kills, but no one else had more than three.
The Eagles will play Manila this afternoon at 12:30 in the consolation bracket. If they win that match, they'll have a chance for fifth place in a match scheduled for 2 p.m.