Success in athletics ebbs and flows as players come and go.
Some established programs, however, always seem to stay near the front of the pack despite those fluctuations.
Tooele High School volleyball, under the direction of sixth-year head Kristi Brown, appears headed toward one of those top athletic programs.
The Buffaloes reached a big goal last season with a first-place finish in Region 11. They would have liked to have finished higher at the state tournament. Tooele defeated Juab in the first round, but ran into eventual champion Hurricane in the second round.
“After we lost the match to Hurricane it really deflated us at the tournament,” Brown said. “We just sort of showed up for the next game.”
Tooele put up a good fight against Region 12 champion North Sanpete in the consolation round, but dropped out of the tournament with a 1–3 loss to the Hawks.
“We lost some top seniors from last year’s team, but we still have a few talented players on the roster this season,” Brown said.
The team will definitely challenge for another Region 11 crown.
Tooele started the year with a downer when it lost 0–3 at Park City on Aug. 21. Brown said the Miners, who finished sixth at state last year, are loaded again this season. One player has signed with Long Beach State.
“I actually think we went into that match a little overconfident after going unbeaten in preseason last year,” Brown said. “We were unable to implement our passing attack, and that was a huge problem. We also struggled with basic serving and receiving. Plus Park City is a great team. It took us five sets to beat them last year.”
The Buffaloes rebounded nicely last Friday and Saturday with a perfect record at the East-West Tournament held at East High School. Tooele went 16–1 in sets with victories over East, Olympus twice, Cedar, Maple Mountain, West, Cyprus and Layton Christian.
“As the tourney continued we seemed to get stronger and stronger, and I was really happy with the way they (players) performed,” Brown said. “We lost a lot of seniors from last year, but have some good players returning.”
One of those top players is four-year starter Brin Stewart, who is the speaking captain allowed to talk to officials during games.
“Brin played on a club team this summer that went to the nationals in the Gold Division and finished in ninth place. She has a tremendous work ethic,” Brown said. “She has tremendous drive; I don’t think I’ve seen anybody with that much drive since Riley Mulitalo.”
The Buffaloes have moved Taylor Thomas to the defensive back row. “Taylor used to play on the right, now we moved her to the middle because she is a tremendous asset to us in blocking,” the coach said.
“Our other captain, Amber Haskell, is playing back row. She and Taylor are our prominent passers. Our three captains give us a lot of experience.”
Tooele will also start three talented juniors in Sidney Simmons, setter Daisy Brown and Ketrah Dekanich.
“We’re still trying to speed up our game, and use our tall players and strong hitters to our advantage. Ketrah has been clocked at hitting 40 mph and the last time Brin was clocked she hit 46 mph,” Brown said.
Tooele plays its first home games on Wednesday and Thursday, Sept. 3–4, against Alta and Carbon.