Last Tuesday, the Grantsville volleyball team struggled mightily in a four-set loss to county rival Stansbury, leading first-year coach Kelbey Fisher to shake up his lineup to try to find a spark.
Two nights later, on the road against another fierce rival, Grantsville bounced back in a big way. The Cowboys swept Tooele 3-0, winning the first two sets by identical 25-14 scores before holding on for a 26-24 win in the third.
“This week started slow,” Fisher said. “We played Stansbury on Tuesday, and that did not go how we play. We had a hard practice (Wednesday), and the girls played with that momentum and brought it to (Thursday). We don’t like to lose bad and we don’t like to lose to rivals, so that was a big one to put us back into a spot where we should be.”
The Cowboys (2-3) went with a starting lineup that included seniors Hannah Butler, Ashton Ekins and Paige Ford, junior Callie Killian, sophomores Maison White and Halle Bartley and senior libero Chloe Gowans. That lineup immediately paid dividends in the first set, racing out to an 11-4 lead. Tooele (0-2) worked its way back into the game with a couple kills from Sadee Simmons that closed the gap to 12-10, but an 8-2 Grantsville run quieted the Buffaloes’ momentum.
“We knew what happened (to Grantsville) on Tuesday, but we never just make assumptions,” Tooele coach Kristi Brown said. “They definitely earned it tonight. They went back into their gym and they worked hard and they came in with a whole different attitude, and we weren’t ready. We just weren’t ready tonight.”
Tooele got off to a better start in the second set, trailing just 8-7 early on. However, a 15-5 burst by the Cowboys, led by White and Ford at the net, put Grantsville firmly in the driver’s seat. That put the Buffs’ backs against the wall going into the third set, which began with a 9-2 Grantsville run.
But Tooele wasn’t done. Slowly but surely, the Buffs clawed their way back into the set, forcing Fisher to burn both of his timeouts in a span of six points as Tooele pulled to within two points at 18-16. Eventually, the Buffs shook off a pair of match points, tying the set at 24-24 on a kill by Gracee Dalton, but Grantsville managed to get the final two points.
“It’s not our philosophy to roll over,” Brown said. “We brought in some younger girls and they brought a little fire and changed the momentum on the court. We’re hoping to build depth so we can feel good about the players we have on the bench, and that’s exactly what they did when they were called upon. They almost had it, but they had too much of a wall to climb.
On the other side, Fisher was pleased to see his team bounce back strong after a disappointing outing just 48 hours earlier. The Cowboys had a balanced attack, led by Ford’s nine kills, eight from White and seven from Bartley.
“We were pretty consistent across the board, and that made a difference in getting more people the ball so we can get more kills from the team,” Fisher said. “The girls played awesome, and we had a great student section that came and supported us. Those things make a big difference in the game.”
Dalton had eight kills for Tooele, while Simmons had six kills and three blocks and Chandra Haskell had 10 digs on a night that the Buffaloes struggled to get their offense going.
“We’re just preparing for region, so I’d rather it happen now so we can go back to the drawing board, see where we need to continue to work and make improvements, and that’s what we’ll do,” Brown said. “We’ll take it as a learning experience.”
Tooele opens Region 11 play at home Thursday night against Ogden. Grantsville faced Mountain Crest on Tuesday night after press time in Hyrum, with the Cowboys’ next home game scheduled for Thursday against Bear River.