3A volleyball: Ogden caps deep run with 4th-place finish at state tournament
OREM — Ogden High volleyball had a goal to play on the final day of the season, Saturday, Oct. 29 — the day of the 3A state semifinals and championship.
The Tigers pulled off a late-night, four-setter to beat region foe South Summit on Friday in the quarterfinals and indeed got to Saturday’s semifinals, the final day of the season. Then they ran into two very good teams.
No. 3 Ogden lost to No. 2 Richfield in four sets in their semifinal Saturday morning (25-20, 15-25, 20-25, 20-25) and then fell in five sets against No. 12 Emery in the third-place match later in the afternoon, finishing fourth in the tournament.
In the words of the players, though, things were alright at the end of the line.
“It’s just bittersweet,” senior Rees Bockwoldt said. “I wouldn’t say it’s a failure at all, top four in 3A is a big deal.”
“Obviously it’s hard to lose, but it’s not just the loss of a game, it’s a loss of all our teammates and friendships and everything we’ve built this past year,” senior Olivia Blackford said.
The Tigers looked dead in the water early against Emery, losing the first two sets 25-15 and 25-11 before making a promising comeback attempt by winning the third and fourth sets 25-17 and 25-17.
Emery won the fifth set 15-11, which ended the final game for an Ogden senior class that’s helped turn the program around the last four years.
“We’ve got a lot of experience, but not this experience. We haven’t been to this day. So I thought we battled; I thought we played hard,” OHS Brad Hulse said.
Hulse praised the four-person senior group of Soledad VanOrden, Olivia Blackford, Rees Bockwoldt and Ashley Christensen for what they’ve done for the program.
“Twenty-two wins is hard thing to do, I hate to see it over,” Hulse said.
Ogden (22-10) had a good thing going early against Richfield, winning the first set 25-20 and then going up 6-1 in the second set. But then the Wildcats leaned on 6-foot-4 outside hitter Nicole Willardson and slowly took over the match, sending Ogden to the third-place game.
Ogden’s semifinal appearance was the deepest state-tournament run the program has made in at least 20 years. Ogden’s last state volleyball championship triumph was in 1983, according to the UHSAA record book. In 2004, 2005 and 2021, the Tigers got to the state quarterfinals, but no farther.
“It’s always, ‘Oh, Ogden,’ you know,” Bockwoldt said in a dreary voice, “but now it’s like, ‘Oh, Ogden.’ Not the underdog anymore,” she finished in a cheery voice.
“We talked about it in the locker room, it was weird coming into this as the third seed … we kind of have a target on our backs almost? And that was weird because that’s never happened,” Bockwoldt said.
It can be hard for some volleyball teams to get off the mat after a semifinal loss and play in a third/fourth-place match an hour later, even if they’ve never been that far. Bockwoldt, Blackford and Hulse all said it was hard for Ogden to find motivation to play the third-place game.
Against Emery, the Tigers struggled to hit anything past the Spartans’ block early on and, likewise, struggled to block Emery hitters.
The Tigers showed better in the third set as they took a 13-12 lead at one point, instead of being down 18-6 like in the second.
That lead was amid a 16-1 run that turned an 11-7 deficit into a 23-12 lead and a 25-16 set win. Twelve straight points came on Blackford’s serve.
Also in the third set, Ogden hit more from the middle and the ball started finding the floor. The comeback was alive and well in the fourth with a 25-17 win, but Emery sealed the deal in the fifth.
Connect with reporter Patrick Carr via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter @patrickcarr_ and Instagram @standardexaminersports.