Our goal is to control the ball on our side of the net. We’re hoping to make a pretty good run at this thing. —Rickie Stewart
There is no doubt which team is the favorite in the 3A state volleyball tournament.
Morgan High hasn’t lost a match to a 3A team since 2014, so as team’s prepare for Wednesday’s tournament at UVU’s UCCU Center, the question is whether any team can beat the back-to-back champions.
“Obviously Morgan is the team to beat,” said North Sanpete head coach Rickie Stewart. “But the tournament is such a unique environment, that atmosphere, and it depends on which teams get hot. That’s the one thing about volleyball if a team has confidence and momentum, they can get on a roll.” She said that may matter even more at the high school level.
“Skill and talent are important,” she said.
But a spark of faith can ignite an unexpected title run, something Stewart knows about as she’s been able to do that successfully — even against a heavily-favored Trojan squad.
In fact, in 2009, Morgan was heavily favored, and in fact, was so talented, coaches joked that they could have beaten BYU’s team. But it was Stewart’s Hawks that ended up earning the title that season with an unexpected championship run.
“Our goal is to control the ball on our side of the net,” she said. “We’re hoping to make a pretty good run at this thing.” Despite a smaller classification because of the expansion from five to six classifications, Stewart said 3A’s talent level is as deep as ever.
“I think anybody can beat anybody else,” she said. “That’s why we play the games. Morgan is a great team. They’re obviously very talented, very well coached and all of the things we know about because they are them every year.”
Top-ranked Morgan opens Wednesday’s tournament against Carbon, while North Sanpete is in the opposite bracket taking on Providence Hall, a Herriman charter school.
The Trojans are led by Senior Middle Block/Hitter Marci Jo Stapley, a Snow volleyball commit, basketball star and track state athlete, who leads 3A in kills. Surrounding her are seniors Beth Pobanz, Brooke Loertscher, Baylee Loertscher and Hannah Farr, as well as junior setter Elle Anderson and sophomore Abbie Cox.
Stewart’s Hawks are led by senior outside Shelby Ison, junior outside Linzy Flinders, who recently took 13th place in cross country, and right side Madisyn Allred.
“We just go play hard and see what happens,” Stewart said.
Third-ranked Richfield will open with Grantsville, while fourth-ranked Union’s first game might be the most competitive, as they face a tough South Sevier squad.
Fifth-ranked South Summit takes on Emery in the first round.
Another intriguing first-round match is San Juan vs. Juab, while Grand and Delta square off in Morgan’s bracket. The tournament begins Wednesday morning with the quarterfinals at noon and 1:30 p.m. The championship match is scheduled for Thursday at 5:30 p.m.