If a team is going to do something special, it isn't enough to be athletically talented.
For a team to overcome the adversity and challenges every team faces during a season of competition, there has to be leadership from players. This year's Deseret News Most Valuable Players showed their ability to lead in how they prepared, how they played and how they elevated the performance and experience of those around them.
5A MVP: Torre Glasker, Bingham
Whatever Bingham volleyball needed, Torre Glasker did her best to provide it.
“To me, what Torre does so well, is that she fills in the gaps of everything that’s going on,” said Bingham assistant coach Austin Linford. “Volleyball is a super positional game, and most people get really focused on their job and on doing what they need to do. They do it really, really well. What Torre does unbelievably well is whatever you need at that moment, that’s what Torre brings.”
But if the senior outside hitter has one super power, it’s passing.
“Her passing is so, so, so good,” Linford said. “Every time she touches the ball, we’re better. You almost want to make her the libero because she’d touch the ball more. If you were in trouble, you want the ball in her hands.”
Glasker led the team with 407 kills while passing 2.63 for 661 pass receptions. In 418 serves, she committed only 15 errors and earned 42 aces.
“It was an enormous amount of pressure to put on one person,” Linford said of what coaches asked from Glasker. “Her intensity on the court is, in my opinion, perfect. Her teammates know they’re going to get the most competitive girl on the court.”
Her leadership, however, wasn’t just statistical.
“I saw a genuine change in her leadership this year,” said her mom and Bingham head coach Melissa Glasker. “She’s always been a phenomenal volleyball player. She’s electric. But this year, I saw her really develop into a leader and friend of our younger girls. I was so proud of her. She loved playing with her team; she was more of a friend to them.” Her friendship and support allowed the team’s younger players to compete with fearlessness.
“I told these kids, ‘If you want to be successful, you have to love your teammates,'” Coach Glasker said. “’You have to be willing to take the big swing, and you also have to encourage your teammates to play just as hard for you and the team.’ I could see that in her this year.”
Glasker will continue her volleyball career at the University of Utah. She’s graduating early and will enroll at Utah in January.
4A MVP: Kennedy Redding, Bountiful
Kennedy Redding’s athletic skill was well-known to both teammates and opponents. But what many may not have known is what kind of leader the senior middle blocker would turn out to be.
When controversy threatened the team’s season, Redding and her fellow seniors stepped up and saved it.
“The sign of really great players is to make everybody else around them better,” said Sabrina Hughes, who stepped in as interim coach after both the head and assistant coaches were suspended amid allegations of verbal abuse and a civil suit was filed by the program’s third assistant coach, who resigned.
“If she’d decided that she was unhappy, she could have taken the whole team with her,” Hughes said.
At the time, the Braves were undefeated and ranked No. 1. Thanks to Redding and the team’s three other seniors, the players were able to work together despite some deep divisions and opinions about the controversy.
“She helped everybody be their best, as much as she was able,” Hughes said. “The other girls looked up to Kennedy. She’s not a loud personality by any stretch, but she was the leader.”
The BYU commit set aside any personal feelings she had about the allegations and just helped her teammates play their best volleyball day after day until the Braves won the 4A state title with a decisive win over defending champion Timpview.
The honor student, who maintains a 4.0 GPA, even agreed to give up playing back row if it would help the team succeed.
“She was fine with whatever was best for the team,” Hughes said. “And that was huge for me.”
The two-sport star earned 13 kills and 10 blocks in the Braves' championship game, but her attitude may have been the team’s greatest asset.
“I’m sure she had days she was down, but we never saw it,” Hughes said. “She was just consistent — her attitude, her demeanor was constant. She came to practice and worked hard and she was pleasant. She didn’t let things ruffle her. Not one time did I ever hear her put anyone down. She’s a gem.”
3A MVP: Alexsa “Crash” Parker, Snow Canyon
To say Crash Parker had a tough job in her senior season is a massive understatement.
After leading her team to an upset of top-ranked Morgan in 2014 in the state championship game, she started her senior season with almost a completely new group of starters.
“Crash was the only returning six rotation starter from our 2014 state championship team,” said Snow Canyon head coach Alaina Parker, who also happens to be her mom. “She was instrumental in our success this season. Without her, this team might not have made it to the state tournament.”
Parker led the team with an astounding 587 kills. She averaged 6.6 kills per set and 18.3 per match.
She also led the team in a number of other statistical categories, including earning 74 aces and 376 digs. She passed a 2.4 on 387 serve receive attempts and scored 661 points for the season. She also earned 39 blocks for the Warriors, who many didn’t expect to even compete for a region title, let alone a second consecutive state title.
When the Warriors needed something, they knew who to go to.
“If we were in a tight spot, she got the ball,” said Alaina Parker.
Crash Parker said she and the other seniors were never sure how the season would progress.
“We were never sure how it was going to come out,” she said. “It was fun, but it was tiring. No one expected us to win our region, either.” Not only did the Warriors earn the region title, they managed to play their way back into the 3A title game for their third straight season.
“It was great,” Crash said. “I was really happy, really pleased with the younger girls. They stepped up.” As difficult as this season was, she said she learned a lot.
“You can’t do everything on your own,” she said. “You have to let other people help. This is not something you do by yourself, and that’s hard for me sometimes. It was really nice this year that some of those younger girls really stepped up.”
An honor student, Parker will head to New Mexico State, where she will play setter for the team. While her teammates may be sad to see her go, opponents will be breathing a sigh of relief.
“When you play against Crash, you better bring your A game,” said Morgan head volleyball coach Liz Wiscombe. “She’s always very competitive. She’s a smart player, and she’s just a cagey, hard-working player. You never play her lightly.”
It isn’t just what Crash Parker can do to dismantle a team’s defense, it’s what she knows and understands about the game.
“She’s done her homework on what are a team’s weaknesses and they attack it,” Wiscombe said. “She makes those that she plays with always believe they can beat you.”
2A MVP: Sidney Springer, Delta
Sidney Springer’s ability to lead is more about who she is than what she does.
“Just her presence,” said Delta head coach Deb Jenkins of the senior outside hitter’s ability to lead. “She’s mentally strong. She’s just there and people follow her. It’s who she is, the way she acts, the way she carries herself. She’s a great, great kid.”
Springer is a gifted athlete who plays several other sports, including basketball, softball and track. She led the Rabbits to a 2A state title with consistently tough play in every phase of the game.
Springer finished the season with 320 kills and a .285 hitting percentage. She was also a critical piece of the defense with 288 digs and 42 aces.
“She’s the one that’s working the hardest in practice,” Jenkins said. “She inspires others to work. She’s always going full out. She inspires the others to be right there with her.”
Jenkins had six seniors on the championship squad, and she said their relationship lifted the entire team. At the heart of that group was Springer, who was the team’s go-to on the court and off.
“You need something done, you don’t even have to question it. She’ll get it done. She’s just a great young lady.”
1A MVP: Taylor Bennett, Panguitch
Taylor Bennett is a coach’s dream because not only can she do just about anything the team needs physically, she has an affable, can-do attitude, no matter what is asked of her.
“When I think of Taylor, the thing that comes to mind is that she’s just a lot of fun to coach,” said Panguitch head coach Troy Norris. “She has a great attitude. She’s always asking what she can do to be better. The girls all love her. She’s a good teammate. She’s kind.”
That does not mean, however, that she doesn’t care about the score.
“I think she’s always been a competitor,” Norris said. “She leads by example.”
Norris said her ability to see the court elevates her game from good to great.
“She’s just got a knack for knowing where to put the ball,” he said. “She has that same knack for knowing how to block. She leads the team in blocking and she’s a very good server.” The senior middle blocker, who maintains a 3.98 GPA, finished the season with 286 kills and a hitting percentage of .346. She also earned 234 digs and served 94 percent with 43 aces. She also averaged 4.5 blocks per contest.
In her high school career, Bennett has won two volleyball championships, two basketball titles, three cross country championships and three track titles. And she has the opportunity to earn two more this season with basketball and track. The unique aspect of her success is that she’s been able to enjoy it with the same group of girls.
“They have motivated each other since they were nine years old,” said her mom Tammy Bennett, an assistant coach with the Bobcats’ basketball team, who started coaching the group when they were in grade school. “They’re competitive, they challenge each other and they’re so good because they work as a team. They’re like sisters. They even argue like sisters.”
Whether it’s school work or sports, Bennett has always been very self-motivated.
“She’s very dedicated and determined,” said Bennett. “She wants to be successful, and she’s always looking to improve herself.”
If Bennett has a passion outside sports it’s serving others.
She belongs to Family, Career and Community Leaders of America, and she’s traveled to nationals as part of her success with that group. She spends an hour of each day tutoring fifth graders in reading.
“She wants to be a kindergarten teacher,” said her mom. “We’re LDS and that’s really important to her. She stays true to her faith, and that’s a big part of who she is.”
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