HIGHLAND It was a battle between Utah high school volleyball heavyweights as the No. 2-ranked and defending 5A champion Lone Peak Knights took on the No. 4 Brighton Bengals and used a solid all-around attack to take the victory 26-24, 25-23, 25-23.
Neither team wanted to give anything away, and both showed plenty of reasons why they're entrenched in the state's top five. During the three games they battled through a total of 32 ties and 13 lead changes. But it was the Knights that came on strong to finish off every game, and much of the reason behind that was the passing defense the defending champions came up with.
"I think that one thing that made a difference in the match was our serve receive and our digging. Anna Burgess had a great night in the back court," said Lone Peak coach Deanna Meyer.
In addition to her tough digs and spot-on passes, Burgess came up with four service aces on some spectacular serves.
Though the Knights' serves were tough to defend when they went in, they were a problem throughout games one and three for Lone Peak as it finished with five service errors in the first game and another four in the third. Brighton had its own issues in game three as it tossed in six service errors in that frame alone.
"We struggled with our serving, and I think that's something we could improve," said Meyer, also noting that a strong and offensive service attack has been a huge focus of her team this year. Another reason behind the Knights' strong showing against the Bengals was the fact that they were able to rotate hitters all match long because of their reliable depth, keeping all of them fresh throughout the contest.
"Ashlan (Rogers) is a gamer. She's a fun kid to watch play, she's energetic, and she had a good night," Meyer said of the player who entered her program as a sophomore and led the team in hitting with 12 kills, including the match-winner.
Other hitters who came on strong were Ashton Gray with nine kills, Taylor Day with seven kills, and Aubrey Muaina and Cami Richan with five kills each. Lone Peak setter Heather Hanneman finished with 40 assists on the night.
Another sophomore, Whitney Johnson was strong defensively, putting up three blocks in the effort despite leaving with a twisted ankle late in the second game.
"Whitney had a great night blocking. She just twisted her ankle. She'll be good to go Tuesday," said Meyer, though she chose to play it safe and keep Johnson out for the remainder of the match against the Bengals.
Brighton took some semblance of control and led through much of the first game. The Knights finally put three kills in a row together, two of them by Rogers, and finished things up with a Muaina kill and a Johnson block to win 26-24.
The Knights actually led through most of the second game with comfortable margins until the Bengals scored five straight points on game point to change a 24-18 game into 25-23. The third game was tight all the way through as the teams made their way through 16 ties and seven lead changes before the Knights finished off the match.Brighton's offensive attack was led by Seriah Lotulei with eight kills, but the team was balanced as Lori Mendenhall, Bekah Meads, Stephanie Stearman, Sami Brunatti and Aurie Robinson each finished with four kills or more.