Thursday night’s volleyball match between longtime rivals Tooele and Grantsville could have gone either way — and, on several occasions, it almost did.
Grantsville sent the home crowd into a frenzy when the Cowboys thought they had the match won late in the fifth set, only to have Maison White’s would-be game-clinching kill reversed by a net violation. Tooele responded with two straight points to give the Buffaloes a match point, but White came up with a kill that counted to keep the Cowboys in it.
Eventually, it was the Cowboys who prevailed in front of a loud crowd at Grantsville High School, outlasting the Buffs 25-23, 18-25, 23-25, 25-16, 18-16 for their first victory of the season.
“They’ve been working really hard the past couple weeks, and they were able to play strong that whole fifth set without being tired,” Grantsville coach Kelbey Fisher said. “Once they relaxed and just focused on that first pass, they were fine. They didn’t worry about anything outside the court — they just played for each other.”
Grantsville (1-1) got off to a quick start in the opening set, taking a 5-1 lead on a block from Kylee Broadhead and a kill by Halle Bartley. Tooele (0-2), which had struggled in its season-opening match against South Summit two days earlier, came storming back to grab a 14-12 lead, led by senior Alli Miles and junior Aysha Lewis.
The Buffs led 19-16 before a 7-1 Grantsville run put the Cowboys up 23-20, and Grantsville held on to win the set.
But Tooele coach Kristi Brown was encouraged by what she saw early on, and the Buffs seemed to carry that momentum through the next two sets.
“We came in here and we were much more focused,” Brown said. “We played a much smoother game. I’m really proud of them, because they really stepped up. A lot of girls stepped up into positions that they didn’t expect to have to play. It was great.”
In the second set, it was Tooele that used a big run to gain control. The Buffs led 14-12 before an 8-2 burst that included an ace from Gracee Dalton, a block by Lewis and a kill by Miles stretched the lead to 22-14. Lewis punctuated the set with an ace of her own.
Grantsville opened the third set with an 8-4 lead, thanks to aces by Bartley and Jupatcha Intaratat as well as a kill by White, but another 8-2 Tooele run with a pair of kills by Miles helped the Buffs take an 18-15 lead. Grantsville clawed back to forge a 23-23 tie, but Tooele’s Brinley Smith served up an ace on set point to give the Buffs a 2-1 lead in the match.
However, Grantsville still had plenty left in the tank. Another quick start saw the Cowboys grab a 9-4 lead, with Bartley, White and Sydney Killian all picking up kills and Bartley adding an ace. Tooele closed the gap to 14-13, but a 9-1 Grantsville run with aces from Broadhead and Hillary Cloward made it 23-14 and enabled the Cowboys to force a fifth set.
“They started out strong — the first set was good, but then they got nervous again,” Fisher said of his team. “They started not focusing on the simple things, like passing and serving. Tooele got the momentum, but we made some rotation changes to help where we needed some strength at.”
Neither team could pull away in the final set, as the biggest lead the Cowboys had was three points and Tooele never led by more than one. Miles, Dalton and Lewis were standouts for the Buffs, while Killian, White and Bartley came up big for Grantsville down the stretch. The atmosphere, with both student sections encouraging their respective teams, only added to the tension.
“This week, we played Stansbury (on the road) and Tooele, and those could be our two loudest gyms because we had two student sections, whereas the rest of the season, we’ll probably only have one,” Fisher said.
Grantsville’s official statistics were not available at press time. Lewis, Miles and Smith each had nine kills to lead Tooele, with Smith also adding five aces and 10 digs. Dalton and Breanna Beer had two service aces each, and Lewis, Beer, Grace Prescott and Alexis Grgich each had two blocks.
Dalton had a team-high 14 digs, and Beer added 25 assists.
“I think they kind of thrive in this kind of environment,” Brown said. “They actually play up. They’ve got the support of their family, and, of course, their friends are here. Yes, (Grantsville’s) a rival court, but it’s almost like home, too, because we’ve been playing here for so long and we’re used to it. We wish it had gone the other way, but that’s how the game goes.”
The Buffaloes opened Region 10 play Tuesday night at Stansbury in a match that was not complete at press time. Grantsville plays host to Mountain Crest in a non-region match Thursday.