Prep Volleyball: Pleasant Grove catches fire, wins 5A title
OREM — Melissa Fuchs closed her eyes, smiled wide and softened her voice.
It was as if she was trying to demonstrate what it looks like to live a dream.
"It feels so amazing," said the senior outside hitter after third-ranked Pleasant Grove capped an unlikely tournament run with a sweep of top-ranked Davis in the semifinals Saturday morning, followed by a sweep of second-ranked Lone Peak in the 5A state championship match Saturday night at UVU. "It feels like a dream, like it's not even happening."
But it did happen. The Vikings lost to their region-rival three times this season, and then, when it mattered most, they dominated them, earning Pleasant Grove the 5A state volleyball title in spectacular fashion.
Players and coaches said sweeping the defending 5A champions Saturday morning 25-20, 25-19, 25-21 gave them the kind of rock-solid faith they needed to do what they hadn't been able to accomplish this fall.
"Yes, we did," said Fuchs when asked if she ever imagined the Vikings could beat Lone Peak 25-16, 25-14, 25-19. "After playing that Davis game and sweeping Davis, we had all the confidence in the world. We had nothing to lose. We'd already lost to them (three times); we had nothing to lose." But it wasn't just the faith of those on the court that made a difference in this fourth meeting, Fuchs said.
"The crowd and the atmosphere," she said of why this match was so different from the previous three. "It's crazy in here; and it's hard to focus mentally. We've been working hard in practice on mental focus, and we came out and did our best and it paid off. It was really big."
Fuchs was dominating at the net — hitting off, around and over the Lone Peak block. She finished with 21 kills and earned 5A All-Tournament MVP honors for her effort.
Junior Madison Wolford added six kills (with a .462 hitting percentage), while Rachel Gale, a junior outside hitter, added 12 kills (.455 hitting percentage).
Junior setter Brisa Winterton varied the offense just enough to keep the usually formidable Knight blockers from ever slowing the offense much at all. She finished with 38 assists.
"They had a great tournament," said Lone Peak head coach Deanna Meyer. "They played well against Davis; they played well against us. They were practically error free. They passed well and they served well and they were able to run their offense. They just looked good." She acknowledged her squad had a hard time grabbing the momentum because the Vikings were playing near-perfect volleyball.
"They were doing things offensively that we didn't pick up, like the tip, and so they'd stop our service runs," she said. "We didn't really get a service run."
The longest run for the Knights was three points. Still, they had moments where they looked like the team that beat the Vikings three times. They were led by Kizzy Willey, who earned 13 kills and seven digs, sophomore outside Emily Lewis, who added seven kills, and setters Raegan Lindsey and Magen Hunter, who had 17 and 12 assists, respectively.
"I've never been more proud of a group of girls in my life," Meyer said. "These girls have worked so hard and they fought to the end. PG earned that win because we weren't giving it away. We played our hearts out."
Pleasant Grove coach Allyce Jones understands the sense of accomplishment mixed with wonder that her players enjoyed as they accepted congratulations after the match. She was the setter on the 2005 team that beat Lone Peak for a 5A state title, after losing to them twice in the 4A title match.
She didn't get emotional until asked if it felt better to win the title as a coach or a player. "As a coach, for sure," she said, tears threatening to fall from her eyes. "Because you have this love for these players and the effort all year, now we just finished it. It's a great way to finish the season."
In addition to the Vikings powerful, nearly flawless offense, the team put up an impressive effort defensively with big blocks and huge digs, especially by senior libero Delayne Daniel.
"It was amazing," said Daniel, whose father coached Jones in that 2005 title match. "I definitely knew we could beat them, but to beat them so badly. It's amazing. It's the best feeling in the world."
Daniel said the team came up with their motto, "We are fire," after listening to a motivational speaker.
"That's just what we are," she said. "The shirts just remind us; It's awesome."