OREM The Skyline Eagles grabbed the momentum at just the right time and held on to it with all they had.
The result was a 25-22, 25-19, 19-25, 25-15 hard-fought victory over the Fremont Silver Wolves in a second-round 5A state championship clash at Utah Valley State College on Friday.
After three straight close games between No. 3-ranked Skyline and No. 5 Fremont, the Eagles seized control of the fourth game, jumping out to an 11-4 advantage and never looking back.
"Volleyball is all about control," Skyline head coach Jami Hutchins said. "The team with the most control wins."
Despite winning the first two games, control is something the Eagles were falling short of maintaining. With the two teams tied as late as 19-19, the first game begged for someone to take a sizable lead. Skyline went up 23-20 and eventually closed it out on a Whitney Nilson kill.
The Eagles once again took a lead in the second game, going up 12-7. But the Silver Wolves refused to go away. Erica Nish's serving pulled them to within 17-16, and outside hitter Analaine Pelaez's incredible energy, athleticism and leadership played a factor in helping Fremont hang around.
"She (Pelaez) is an amazing player, and very versatile," Hutchins said. "We knew that, so we wanted to serve her every time."
That strategy of making Pelaez work extra hard eventually paid off but not before the Silver Wolves managed to pull out a win in the third game.
Pelaez was the spark in that game, as she stepped up to serve with the score tied at 18-18. She proceeded to rattle off six straight points, including a pair of aces, as Fremont cut Skyline's lead in games in half.
There was a sense throughout the final game that Skyline was not going to give up control. But there was also a feeling that Fremont wouldn't give up.
Even down 20-10 and seemingly left for dead, the Silver Wolves scored four straight points. But it was too little, too late as Emily Dunn's serving provided for the final dagger in Fremont's coffin. Outside hitter Zsuzsi Simon's kill was the final point in the match.
After the game, Hutchins pointed out that his team lost the third-fourth place game in last year's tournament, and that was something they didn't want to repeat.
"They remembered that, and I think that gave them motivation to play hard," Hutchins said.Giving kudos to the entire team, Hutchins specifically pointed to Katie Kaelin's play, calling her efforts "absolutely fantastic."