The state tournament hasn’t been kind to the Stansbury volleyball team over the years, leaving the Stallions frustrated every time they’ve left the UCCU Center in Orem after their final match of the season.
On Thursday, it was a different story for a young group that exceeded most expectations — even their own — by finishing eighth in the Class 4A state tournament, marking the first time Stansbury has placed at state in its 10 seasons of competition.
“If you were to line up all the teams here and kind of guess who were probably the best ones, people probably wouldn’t think much of us,” Stansbury coach Erika Smith said. “We’re a little smaller than every team, we’re younger, we only have two seniors, we lost eight seniors last year, we’re really inexperienced — I don’t think anyone was really expecting much, but I think we expected a lot of ourselves because we knew how talented we actually are.”
Stansbury (17-14) worked its way into the sixth-place match with a strong bounce-back effort after losing in four sets to Salem Hills in the first round. The Stallions beat Mountain Crest in four sets on Wednesday afternoon to keep their season alive, setting up a Thursday-morning matchup with Region 11 rival Juan Diego in the consolation semifinals.
With the Soaring Eagle having beaten the Stallions late in the regular season, Stansbury had revenge on its mind — and that’s exactly what it got, demolishing Juan Diego 25-19, 25-14, 25-17 behind nine kills from Annika Riggle and Heilala Kaufusi. Linzie Hoffmann had seven kills, three blocks and 16 digs and Samantha Bryant had 30 assists and five aces. Kalee Philips added 10 digs and Jaydn Gagnier had six kills.
“For sure, we had a chip (on our shoulders) — when we found out we were playing Juan Diego, everyone cheered on the bus,” Smith said. “We were ready for some revenge, and it was sweet.”
That victory sent the Stallions into the sixth-place match against Desert Hills. Stansbury kept things close throughout, but ultimately fell to the Thunder 28-26, 25-20, 25-22. After the match, the Stallions were all smiles as they discussed what they’d accomplished — leaving the UCCU Center with their heads held high.
“We ended the season on a loss, but it doesn’t feel that way,” Smith said. “We battled, it was close and it was a match to place at state, which Stansbury had never done before. It feels like a win for us.”
Sky View defeated Park City for the Class 4A title. Lehi was third, followed by Salem Hills, Spanish Fork, Desert Hills, Green Canyon and Stansbury.
The Grantsville volleyball team struggled at times this season, but saved its best for last with a strong run in the Class 3A state tournament.
The Cowboys (14-13) made it to the second day of the tournament by winning a match at state for the first time in nine years, toppling Maeser Prep in three sets in the consolation bracket Wednesday night after losing their first match of the tournament to Delta. That put the Cowboys into Thursday morning’s consolation semifinals against Richfield.
The Wildcats dominated the first set, winning 25-16. Grantsville bounced back over the final three sets, losing the second set 27-25 before winning the third 25-13. The Cowboys had their chances to force a fifth set, but couldn’t capitalize, losing the fourth set 28-26.
“I’m just so proud of them,” Grantsville coach Kelbey Fisher said. “All we tried to get out of them was to give it their all, and that’s how they finished. They knew and understood how to play as a team and they had their role that they had to play. It’s not a quick change, but they worked hard and they did it.”
Sophomore Maison White led the Cowboys with 13 kills against Richfield, while senior Hannah Butler had seven and sophomore Halle Bartley had six. Senior Chloe Gowans had three aces, senior Paige Ford had five blocks, junior Jupatcha Swan had 24 digs and sophomore Hillary Cloward had 23 assists.
“Just a couple points there would have been the difference,” Fisher said. “They competed the whole time. I’m proud of them.”
Morgan beat San Juan for the 3A state title. Emery, North Sanpete, Union, Richfield, South Sevier and Grand rounded out the top eight.