OREM -- In consecutive years, the St. Joseph Jayhawks have finished the year in fourth place, third place and now second place. If that trend holds true, they might well be hoisting a championship trophy next year.
But it will be a long year to wait as the taste of coming so close to a title takes quite a while to get rid of.
On Saturday night at Utah Valley University, the Jayhawks dropped the first two sets against Monticello, 25-20, 25-19, before roaring back with two wins of their own, 25-23, 25-17, to force a decisive fifth set. But the magic finally ran out in Game 5, where they lost 15-11, giving Monticello its second straight state 1-A volleyball championship.
"There's no quit in these guys," St. Joseph coach Ray Franklin said of his players. "They played their guts out and I don't think anybody wanted it worse than they did."
Outside hitter Britt Sederholm did everything she could to lead the Jayhawks to a victory, recording a match-high 26 kills to go along with 15 digs. Audra Thurston added 10 kills and eight solo blocks, while Jessie Bischoff had 12 kills and 11 digs.
Libero Mady White had 25 digs for St. Joseph, and setters Emily Jackson and Bailey Pacheco had 22 and 21 set assists respectively.
"It's always tough to lose, but I can't be more proud of these girls," Franklin said. "Being down 2-0 and coming back and making it this close. It was incredible. But it wasn't our turn, I guess."
Monticello coach Tony Esplin was equally impressed with the Jayhawks' effort.
"St. Joseph was unbelievable," he said. "I really didn't think we had an honest chance against them. They're big and they block well. They're a solid team. Our only hope was that we could be a little bit quicker. I take nothing away from them. They played hard."
In St. Joseph's earlier match, a semifinal battle against Rich, the Jayhawks ousted the tournament favorites in five arduous sets, 25-16, 20-25, 25-19, 15-25, 15-12, to send the Jayhawks to their first-ever appearance in the championship match.
Against the Rebels, Sederholm had 23 kills and eight digs, while Thurston was very impressive defensively, recording 10 blocks. White added 20 digs and Pacheco had 17 digs and 14 set assists.
Franklin was thrilled to beat Rich for the first time.
"Rich is a great team," Franklin said. "But today we played good defense, our passing was good, our serving was good, and we just kept the ball off the floor. We had some kids step up today and were just awesome. Audra Thurston completely shut them down. Rich did not have a chance today against her."
In other 1-A action, Layton Christian advanced to the fifth-place match with a straight set win over Manila, 32-30, 25-16, 25-22. Unfortunately the Eagles had to immediately turn around and play perennial powerhouse Panguitch. Similar to the experience they had on Friday, the Eagles were out of gas in the second match, so they settled for seventh place after a 25-17, 25-21, 25-16 loss to the Bobcats.
* DEFENDING CHAMPION TROJANS FALL TO THIRD: Morgan's hopes for a three-peat in the 3-A tournament were dashed early Saturday afternoon when it got swept by Region 9 power Snow Canyon, 25-16, 25-20, 25-15.
The Warriors, who lost to Morgan in last year's championship game, were bigger and stronger than the Trojans this time around and played nearly a flawless match. To make matters worse, Morgan middle blocker McKenzie Schenk took a Snow Canyon spike to her right eye, bruising her retina for the second time in a year. She stayed in the game, but could really only see out of one eye.
The highly anticipated rematch was a tough loss for the Trojans, who entered the tournament with great expectations.
"Snow Canyon played a great game," Morgan coach Liz Wiscombe said. "They blocked really well and they almost played an error-less game, which they had to do to beat us."
Schenk, Cassidee Lish and Katie Peterson led Morgan's effort against Snow Canyon with five kills apiece. Defensively, libero Casey Thompson had 13 digs.
Later in the afternoon, the Trojans returned to the court and captured third place with a four-set win over Delta, 25-14, 25-17, 18-25, 25-21. It was not exactly the victory Morgan was shooting for, but third place is always better than fourth.
"I'm proud of my kids," Wiscombe said. "I wouldn't want to coach anybody else. I just love them. They work hard and are just a classy group. I'm glad to be a part of them. That third and fourth-place game isn't easy. But they came back and battled hard and showed a lot of heart."
Against the Rabbits, Lish had 17 kills, eight digs and a pair of blocks. Peterson added a dozen kills and three digs, while Amanda Porter and Aspen Thompson had 23 and 20 digs, respectively. Kristi Rhead continued her amazing comeback from a terrible foot injury by leading the team with 18 set assists.
Schenk made a trip to the hospital between matches to have her eye checked out and did not play against Delta.
In the exciting championship match, Desert Hills turned back Region 9 rival Snow Canyon 3-2, winning 15-12 in the final set to claim the title.