TAYLORSVILLE Sometimes it isn't just the stats a player accumulates on the field that really make a difference in the outcome of a game.
Brighton sophomore Megan Johnson entered the highly anticipated match against Taylorsville in the second game and provided the solid, consistent play the Bengals needed.
"That third game just made my whole day," said a beaming Bengal coach Kathy Mendenhall after Brighton swept Taylorsville 25-23, 25-21, 25-14. "They had to rely on their outsides, Brita (Noble) and Sam (Staker), and today we had an answer for them."
That answer most of the time was middle hitter Sami Brunatti. Brighton loves to run the quick offense, especially in the middle and Thursday night it became their bread and butter. Brunatti put down 12 kills in the win and had some key blocks as well.
But it was Johnson who changed the momentum of the game with solid serving, some huge defensive pick-ups and just a general can-do attitude.
"She was, by far, just exactly the spark we needed tonight," said Mendenhall. "She's always willing to go on the court and do anything we ask. She works hard in the gym all the time and she was a leader tonight."
Most importantly, she offered the Bengals just the right chemistry to surprise even themselves by sweeping the No. 5 ranked Warriors.
"She brings an element of togetherness to the team," Mendenhall said. "But she can come in on the outside and we really don't lose anything."
Taylorsville head coach Rich Kaelin said he was impressed with the impact Johnson had on the match.
"Megan came in and was so solid," he said. "She made the difference."
But he also pointed to the play of Bengal setter Lori Mendenhall, who is recovering from a sprained ankle.
"Lori Mendenhall was amazing," Kaelin said. "Balls never dropped, and she had seven dump kills in a row."
He was disappointed with how his team performed and felt that he might have put too much emphasis on preparing for the talented team.
"This team plays better when they're having fun," he said. "And I think I just put too much pressure on them. I've never seen them play like that."
Noble finished with eight kills and freshman outside Sam Staker added six kills.
The Bengals setter Lori Mendenhall finished with 23 assists and distributed the ball well for Brighton. Brunatti might have been her favorite hitter, but she found others like Aurie Robinson and Rebekah Meads as well. Stopping Brunatti, who will play for USU next year, is a difficult task for any defense.
"I don't think very many people have an answer for Sami," Mendenhall said.
Mendenhall said the Bengals know Taylorsville is a talented team and felt fortunate to stay unbeaten in region play."I think we caught them off guard a little," she said. "They're a very, very good team. They cover their hitters well."