It may have only been a preseason match in mid-August, but the atmosphere at Grantsville High School for Tuesday’s volleyball showdown between Stansbury and Grantsville made it feel like there was much more on the line.
Stansbury managed to escape with a 25-9, 25-15, 23-25, 25-13 win over its Tooele County rivals in front of a raucous crowd that brought a playoff-like intensity to the match. It was an atmosphere that both teams felt helped them elevate their level of play.
“I think a game like this with the crowd getting really into it — it’s loud in here — it feels like there’s a lot riding on it,” Stansbury coach Erika Smith said. “I think it’s good to start the season off with that. Thanks to all the fans from both sides who came out and made it a really fun game.”
The Stallions took control of the first game early, turning a 4-4 tie into a 12-5 lead with a quick burst that included an ace by Kalee Philips and a kill by Kayla Alvey. Grantsville cut the lead to 12-7 before Stansbury ripped off another nine points in a row, with an ace by Alvey and a kill by Samantha Bryant keying the run.
Stansbury got Game 2 off to a similarly strong start with a 13-4 run, led by Bryant and Linzie Hoffmann. Grantsville ran off four straight points with kills by Ashton Ekins and Halle Bartley to get back within striking distance, and trailed 19-14 late in the game before Stansbury tallied six of the final seven points.
The host Cowboys weren’t about to go quietly, however. They put together their best effort of the night in the third game, a back-and-forth affair that saw three lead changes and three ties. But Grantsville broke an 18-18 tie with a kill by Bartley that sparked a five-point run, and while the Stallions got back to within a point, they couldn’t get over the hump and Ekins put the exclamation point on the Cowboys’ win with a kill on game point.
“We needed to focus on our passing more and being in the right spots defensively, which whe had not been doing at all, and raising our energy level,” said Grantsville assistant coach Heidi Taylor, who ran the team in head coach Kelbey Fisher’s absence on Tuesday night. “I think we got a lot of digs based on them playing defense correctly, where they hadn’t been earlier.”
The loss seemed to wake Stansbury up in Game 4, as the Stallions got back to what had made them so dominant early in the match. The result was an early 11-3 lead, with kills by Bryant, Jadyn Gagnier and Heilala Kaufusi. Grantsville never got closer than five points after that.
“The third game was weird,” Smith said. “It seemed like we were struggling with things that in the rest of the games, it seemed that we did pretty well. I just told them in the fourth game that it was all about who started the game the best and they came out with a lot of energy. I was proud that they were able to get it back in the fourth.”
Statistics for Stansbury were not available at press time. Bartley led Grantsville with 12 kills, while Paige Ford had seven and Ekins, Hannah Butler and Maison White each had six. Callie Killian had six aces for the Cowboys.
“You don’t get better playing teams that aren’t good,” Taylor said. “Stansbury’s a great team. Playing them was really good for us, because we can see where we need to be.”
Stansbury’s next match is Wednesday at home against Taylorsville. Grantsville faced Tooele on the road Thursday night after press time. The Cowboys will take part in the Dixie High Flyer Tournament at Dixie High School in St. George on Friday and Saturday.