BRIGHAM CITY — Last season, a handful of would-be Farmington High varsity volleyball players sat out for the season due to school transfer rules.
So while it might appear the Phoenix has a group of new senior starters this year who are playing major roles, remember that group was still in the same gym last year practicing and playing, waiting for the next year.
“I can’t imagine what it would be like to sacrifice a year, especially when they’re talented players who could play varsity level at any school, how grateful I am that they took a chance on us at Farmington and wanted to be part of establishing our program,” Farmington head coach April Painter said.
Well, next year has come and Farmington’s opponents are all walking away wondering what to do about the Phoenix.
FHS ran its unbeaten record in 2019 to 11-0 with a straight-sets win against Box Elder — 25-18, 25-20, 25-14 — in the teams’ Region 5 opener Thursday night.
The Bees, defending region champions who finished third at the state tournament last season, were undone by Farmington’s (11-0, 1-0 Region 5) consistency and solid all-around play.
“We have different people with different skillsets who are in the right place at the right time,” Painter said. “I can’t say enough about our libero (Rylee Brown) who lifts everybody up as she’s playing, my middles are doing a great job attacking as well as holding the block and creating opportunities for my outsides. Everyone’s doing their job, it makes my job seem fairly easy.”
Painter called timeout just once, late in the second set after a block by Box Elder (3-7, 0-1) senior Tiffany Hortin closed the margin to 22-19.
Senior outside hitter Hannah Howard unloaded on her next three swings and Farmington had no problems closing the second set after that.
Howard, setter Fran Skinner, middle hitter Kait White and right-side hitter Ellie Darling all sat out last season. All four are playing huge roles so far.
Howard leads the team in kills, Skinner is the starting setter, White is one of the team’s top blockers and Darling is in the top five in most stat categories on the team.
“I think we’re strong all around. We have some great hitters, but without a great setter,” White said.
Box Elder clawed its way back from sizable deficits early in the first and second sets. In the first set, the Bees trailed 10-4 early on and had the score tied as late as 16-16.
It was a 15-15 tie in the second set before a 7-1 run by Farmington broke things open. FHS might have broke things open far earlier if not for some spectacular defensive plays by Bees libero Breanne McClellan.
FHS did just about everything: hit well, serve well, block well, play good defense and pass well.
”There are times when our defense stands out a lot more than others, but we have to have a strong everything to be able to play well,” said Darling, whose initials ‘E-D’ have earned her the nickname of “Ed.”
FHS has played 27 sets of volleyball in 11 matches and won all 27 sets, though as soon as that fact is brought up, coaches and players alike don’t care and want to focus on the task at hand.
Not everything was rosy for the Phoenix on Thursday night. The team’s bus broke down, leaving most of the players and coaches to wait in the BEHS gymnasium lobby for 45 minutes before they could go home.