The Stansbury volleyball team feels it can compete for the top spot in Region 11 this season, and the Stallions’ neighbor to the south, Tooele, believes it isn’t far off either.
That made for an exciting battle between the two Tooele County rivals Tuesday night at Stansbury High School, where a large crowd from both schools saw the host Stallions hold off the Buffaloes for a 25-15, 25-16, 22-25, 25-19 victory in which both teams’ top players showed off just how good they can be.
“I’ve been really proud of them,” Stansbury coach Erika Smith said. “When the game is on the line, I don’t feel like they’re nervous. I feel like they thrive in that environment.”
Stansbury (7-5, 2-1 Region 11) used an 11-2 run early in the first set to take a 13-6 lead and didn’t allow Tooele (2-4, 2-2) to get closer than five points after that. Annika Riggle, who led the Stallions with 10 kills in the match, teamed with Jaydn Gagnier and Heilala Kaufusi to wreak havoc at the net, while the Buffs struggled to get their offense going.
“We just had some things (go wrong) — serve receive and passing — things that we’re normally quite proficient at,” Tooele coach Kristi Brown said. “We could have been better passers tonight and just had a little bit more aggressive offense, but we’ll go back to the gym and work on that and we’ll be fine. We were being very cautious — playing not to lose or make a mistake.”
The second set followed a similar theme. Riggle put down a pair of kills early to give Stansbury a 5-0 lead, only to see Tooele battle its way back to a 6-6 tie. However, that’s when the Stallions stepped on the gas, going on a 15-5 run to take a 21-11 lead.
“We’ve been in those rivalry games before, and we know that the momentum shifts to whoever starts the strongest,” Smith said. “We talked about how it was going to be emotionally charged and how we could only control what happens on our side, and I think that helped us a lot.”
Tooele bounced back with a strong effort in the third set despite having lost the first two. An 11-2 run by the Buffs midway through the set turned a 10-8 deficit into a 19-12 advantage, including a seven-point run on Gracee Dalton’s serve. The Buffs led 23-17 late before Stansbury closed the gap to one, but Dalton and Tooele got the final two points to send the match to a fourth set.
“That’s not our philosophy to just roll over,” Brown said. “We’re going to come back and fight. We told them ‘we’ve got nothing to lose at this point,’ so they went out and they just played.”
The decisive set was fairly close in the early going, with Stansbury clinging to a 10-9 lead after Tooele’s Brinley Smith served up an ace. A 9-3 Stansbury run put the Stallions in front 19-12, and a couple late kills by Samantha Bryant and Riggle clinched the victory for SHS.
“I told them at the beginning of the fourth set that we had an opportunity to really punctuate the game and make a statement instead of letting it drag out,” Smith said. “I think they wanted to finish it and make a statement for themselves.”
Kayla Alvey had nine kills, four aces and five digs for Stansbury, while Kaufusi had nine kills and five digs. Gagnier had three blocks, Linzie Hoffmann had four blocks and nine digs and Kalee Philips had three aces and six digs. Bryant finished with 19 digs and 29 assists.
Dalton had a game-high 11 kills for Tooele to go with two aces and nine digs. Sadee Simmons had five kills, two aces, four blocks, seven digs and 26 assists, Sesi Latu had six kills and Julia Smith added three aces and four blocks. Janey Colovich also served up two aces and Chandra Haskell had 12 digs.
Stansbury traveled to Juan Diego on Thursday for a Region 11 match that was not complete at press time. Tooele will play host to Juan Diego next Tuesday.