We expect nothing when we step on the court, and it drives us to work for everything every time we play. —Desert Hills coach Jill Swaney
OREM — Expect nothing, work for everything.
That has been the Desert Hills volleyball team's motto throughout the season.
Repeating that mantra has helped them to a Region 9 championship, a top seed in the 3A state tournament, and, with a come-back victory over Juan Diego on Friday evening, a trip to the 3A semifinals.
"We expect nothing when we step on the court," Desert Hills coach Jill Swaney said after her team's 3-1 win at Utah Valley University. "And it drives us to work for everything every time we play."
Juan Diego jumped out and won the first set 25-19. The Soaring Eagle was the second seed out of Region 10 with a league record of 8-2 and an overall record of 22-8.
"I don't know why we needed to warm up again but apparently we did," Swaney said of dropping the first set. "We knew Juan Diego was going to be tough, and so I think we came out and we had a little bit of nerves going on. Once we settled down, got into our game, we started to play a little more solid."
The Thunder bounced back to win the next three sets 25-14, 25-21, and 25-17. The coach said she helped the team regroup by reminding them to return to the basics.
"I just told them to make sure their mind is focused on the fundamentals," she said. "That first game, passing was terrible. We went right back down to the basics and said, 'let's get these passes going and rolling, and let everything else take care of its self."
Desert Hills was led by the play of senior middle blocker Lindsay Jones, who totaled 11 blocks and 14 kills in the win. Alex Garrett contributed three service aces and Blair Bliss had 13 kills.
"Blair is a great player," Swaney said of the junior leader. "She brings a lot of momentum to our team, and she's extremely smart in every aspect of the game. I am very proud of her and the way she played today."
The Thunder will meet the Delta Rabbits, the top seeded team from Region 12, in the first semifinal matchup today at 10:30 a.m. The teams played once during the regular season, a match which Desert Hills won 2-0.
The other semifinal is between Snow Canyon, second place out of Region 9, and Morgan, the top team in Region 11. Morgan edged Dixie in five sets (17-25, 25-20, 25-20, 22-25, 15-10) in the quarterfinal round, eliminating what was nearly the third Region 9 team in the semifinals.
"It means that we're pretty tough," Swaney said of so many region foes competing in the tournament. "We like to be in that region and play those teams because they always, always bring a challenge. And a challenge is good, because without a challenge and struggle there is no strength."
In the other quarterfinal matchups, Delta defeated Uintah in four sets, 25-22, 25-17, 21-25, 25-18, and Snow Canyon defeated Judge Memorial, 25-17, 25-23, 25-11.