OREM — The Westlake Thunder volleyball team now understand what it means to actually "leave it all" on the court.
That's because it took everything the Region 7 champs had to get past third-seeded Bonneville in the quarterfinals of the 4A state volleyball playoffs at UVU's UCCU Center Friday night.
"That was the most emotionally exhausting match I've ever played in my life," said junior outside hitter Anela'okalani Hansen after Westlake defeated the Lakers in a five-set thriller 25-22, 13-25, 23-25, 25-15, 18-16. "I was worried. But something kind of clicked in the middle of that fourth set, and I knew we'd win."
The Thunder coach was not only emotionally drained, but beaming with pride at the way his players battled in the two-hour match.
"That's the beauty of state," said Wayne Wood. "That's grit; that's determination; that's heart. They played their hearts out, both teams. That was so fun."
Clearly it was more fun for Westlake as the Thunder earned the school's first ever semifinal berth in the volleyball playoffs. Westlake will take on Timpview in Saturday's 12:30 semifinal after the defending champion T-birds earned a five-set victory over Woods Cross Friday night.
The momentum shifted back and forth between the two teams with the final set being so evenly matched, they had to go to extra points to decide the winner.
Hansen led the team with 23 kills, while senior middle Amanda Campbell added eight kills on 12 swings.
Senior libero Courtney Kamauoha led the team's critical defensive effort with 31 digs.
"This means everything," said Kamauoha. "It's making history for our school."
Campbell said it was after their coach admonished them to "slow down and play our game" that they began to feel the momentum shift back into their favor in the fourth game.
"But yes, I was worried," she said smiling. "Our crowd helped us so much. We're so grateful for the support."
Westlake boasted one of the biggest, loudest crowds of the tournament.
Wood said the program has enjoyed some other milestones that helped them turn a corner this season.
"Beating Skyline at Westlake was monumental," said Wood. "It just gave us confidence. Also that first win at home against American Fork. It showed us early what we were capable of."
The Thunder began playing a bit timid at times, and Wood said he called a time out to specifically address that issue.
"I said, 'We're not going to lose this being tentative; let's go out and hit a ball'," he said.
Wood heaped praise on Kamauoha and Bonneville's libero, Jamie Garner.
"They both made some miraculous saves," he said.
In the other bracket, top-ranked Salem Hills swept Herriman 25-16, 25-22, 25-20 to earn a spot in the 10:30 a.m. semifinal. Second-ranked Sky View defeated Skyline 25-15, 25-9, 25-9 to earn a shot at upsetting the top team.
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