OREM — Standing on the neon court with the weight of their dreams making their palms sweat and their mouths dry, the St. Joseph volleyball team understands that every player lined up on the other side of that net is fighting for the same prize they've worked for all season.
"No one has an edge," said Jayhawks head coach Ray Franklin after third-ranked St. Joseph swept fourth-ranked Panguitch 25-13, 26-24, 25-22. "All of these kids come to play. They don't care what your ranking is, what your record is or who you played before. Whoever ends up winning this (tournament) wants it more."
The Jayhawks have proven themselves to be one of the state's best 1A volleyball teams this year.
The team has steadily improved each season, but that does not mean they feel the pressure that is sometimes associated with success.
"This is where we're supposed to be," Franklin said of the team that earned a shot at 1A's powerhouse — Rich — in Saturday's 10:30 a.m. semifinal at UVU's UCCU Center. "It's not so much pressure because it's not really that big of a surprise that we're here."
The team struggled in its opening match against fifth-seeded Wayne, coming back from a two-set deficit to advance to the quarterfinal match against Panguitch. St. Joseph defeated Wayne 20-25, 16-25, 25-16, 25-13, 15-9.
"We didn't play as well as we can," Franklin said of the team's first match. "Sometimes when you come to these tournaments, it's hard to get a good flow going."
No one, especially the teenage players, loves the 8 a.m. start time. But they weren't blaming fatigue on their poor play Friday morning.
"It was a reality check for us," said Jessie Bischoff, a junior outside hitter, "to know that we have to work a lot harder if we want to make it to the title game."
The team captain was part of the state championship basketball team last season, and she said their win last winter has helped them compete this fall.
"I think it's helped us a lot," she said, pointing out that three other starters for the volleyball team played on the Jayhawks' basketball team. "It showed us that it's possible."
Bischoff had 10 kills and four digs in the win, while junior Britt Sederholm added 20 kills and 11 digs, as well as three solo blocks. Mady White picked up 15 digs and an ace, while Emily Jackson earned 21 assists and 10 digs. Bailey Pacheco earned 11 assists and two digs.
Franklin was encouraged with how his team improved in the second match, but said they have yet to put their best effort on the court.
"The girls are playing better and better," said Franklin. "They really want to do well. Our goal all year has just been to put ourselves in the position that we can be in that championship game."
In the other quarterfinal matches:
Rich made short work of Monument Valey with a 25-12, 25-16, 25-10 victory to advance to Friday's 10:30 a.m. semifinal match against St. Joseph.
Second-ranked Monticello defeated Layton Christian 25-14, 25-14, 25-20 to advance to the semifinals Saturday at 12:30. The defending 1A champs will take on Piute in that match. The T-birds defeated Manila 25-23, 25-16, 25-23 to earn a semifinal berth.
All volleyball games will be streamed live at www.deseretnews.com on Saturday, including the 1A state championship match that is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.
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