They may no longer be in the same region, but Tuesday night’s showdown between the Tooele and Grantsville volleyball teams certainly felt like more than a typical preseason match, with a loud crowd and intense action on the court.
After a hard-fought battle, Tooele came away with a 24-26, 25-21, 25-14, 25-23 win on the road, earning its first victory of the season.
“We just had to learn to play our game, and we started having an easier time with that,” Tooele coach Kristy Brown said. “Even though Grantsville’s not in our region, it’s still a rival match — it’s a county match, so you’re going to have those heightened emotions anyway. It’s really good for my team to get that experience before we go into region and get that kind of emotion and know that they can pull it out. It’s going to be a big confidence booster for our girls. We can go in on Thursday (against Ogden) having a win under our belt from the preseason.”
Gracee Dalton and Shaylie Davis had seven kills for Tooele (1-1), and Sadee Simmons added six kills, eight digs and five aces. Brooklyn Lewis had four blocks and Blake Hervat added three blocks and three aces. Sesi Kivalu had three aces and Peyton Cluff had seven digs for the Buffs, who were coming off a tough five-set loss to South Summit in their previous match.
“That means that we used our hitters universally rather that just having one go-to,” Brown said. “We’re not going to put up (kill) numbers in the double-digits because we move the ball around. That’s an advantage because then the blockers on the other side don’t know what we’re doing.”
Both teams feature underclassman-laden rosters, meaning that non-region matches take on added importance with the ability to work out some of the bugs before games start to count. They are particularly important for Grantsville, with coach Trudi Wilson trying to implement her style of play in her first season in charge of the Cowboys.
“We’re trying to go a little different direction from what has been done in the past,” Wilson said. “That change is a little harder for the girls to make from what they’re used to playing. I would say that’s the hardest thing right now with my job – keep having them make those changes because they keep wanting to revert to the old ways instead of going the direction we’re trying to go with it.”
While Tooele came in having played just one other match, Grantsville (2-5) played in Dixie’s High Flyer tournament last weekend in St. George and gained valuable experience, though fatigue may have had an effect on the Cowboys’ play Tuesday evening, Wilson said.
“We’re pretty much starting juniors and sophomores,” Wilson said, noting that Tuesday’s third set featured multiple mental lapses by her team. “We have a couple of seniors who are in other little areas, but we’re young. So, to play a rival team is huge for us. It brings the energy and excitement and it prepares them for state. It’s not the way we wanted it to end, but this was good for them to learn how to play under tough situations.”
Grantsville traveled to Garland to face Bear River in a non-region match Thursday night, while Tooele traveled to Ogden for its Region 11 opener. Neither match was complete at press time.