High school volleyball: Darts, Knights set their sights on 5A volleyball title
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
OREM — Each year high school athletes have to struggle with the weight of accomplishments — or disappointments — that belong to their programs but not necessarily to them.
Finding a way to use the pride that players feel for their programs while still convincing them they need to make their own mark is a key to any successful season.
No one knows more about that than the coaches of the two top-ranked 5A volleyball teams.
Lone Peak head coach Deanna Meyer has led the Knights to the 5A finals every year since 2003 except for last year. Meanwhile, Davis head coach Lori Salvo won back-to-back titles at Viewmont (2003 and 2004), and then last year she guided the Darts to a somewhat surprising 5A championship.
Not surprisingly, these two coaches' teams are ranked No. 1 (Davis) and No. 2 (Lone Peak) heading into this weekend's 5A state championship at Utah Valley University's UCCU Center. But as familiar as both coaches are with success, they also know that any team can be upset when it comes to the state tournament.
"For sure, I think there is more pressure because last year it was an unknown," said Salvo. "This year, we've been more like the team to beat."
Meyer said she works hard to make sure each team understands they earn their own place in the school's storied volleyball tradition.
"It's about this year's team — not what we did or didn't do last year," she said. "Maybe we talked about it at the beginning of the season, but the conversation we're having is we need to play to our potential, and if that puts us in the finals then that's where we need to be. We just play each day as good as we can and see what happens."
Lone Peak takes on West Jordan in the first round, and the Knights are led by senior outside star Kizzy Willey and her talented teammates Jaiden Achermann, Reagan Lindsey and Emily Lewis.
The top-ranked Darts take on Kearns in the first round of the tournament, and if they win, they'll face a tough challenge in the winner of the Bingham-Alta matchup. The Darts are led by Kaylie Kamalu, Camille Walker and Tani Langsten.
The Bingham Miners finished third in the tough Region 4, while Alta was a second seed from Region 3. The Hawks come into the tournament with one upset under their belts, as they handed region champion Jordan its only loss of league play last week.
Bingham is young but talented and has a lot to prove after battling two of the state's top-five teams in second-ranked Lone Peak and third-ranked Pleasant Grove.
The Pleasant Grove Vikings take on Brighton in the first round, then have to either face Northridge or fourth-ranked Taylorsville. The Vikings are led by setter Brisa Winterton and hitters Madison Wolford and Rachel Gale and libero Delayne Daniel.
Jordan is 5A's fifth-ranked team and enjoyed a near perfect region run that ended in a five-set thriller against Alta last week.
For her part, Salvo said her team is prepared to play anyone — ranked or not — this weekend.
"We were riding the bus back from our last game, and the girls were just talking about (the tournament) being so close," said Salvo. "I think the loss in the preseason was good because we aren't going in undefeated."
She said she hopes her players understand the unpredictable nature of the playoffs.
"It's whoever shows up. Even on the first round, no match is an easy one to win," she said.
Meyer agrees that anything is possible, although she believes Region 4 could pull off some surprises this weekend.
"I think our region will have a good showing," Meyer said. "We're bringing four very strong teams to the tournament this year. I like where we're at, but everybody's got to put four good games together, back-to-back, to win it."
Bingham vs. Alta
Kearns vs. Davis
Northridge vs. Taylorsville
Brighton vs. Pleasant Grove
Fremont vs. Hunter
West Jordan vs. Lone Peak
Lehi vs. Jordan
Viewmont vs. Layton