The night before, I couldn’t sleep. I was dreaming of volleyball, of this match. We’ve just been so excited for this. —Emily Smith
OREM — Every time Emily Smith pushed through a grinding workout, set one more ball for a teammate or passed up a sugary treat, it was with one moment in mind.
That moment came Thursday night when she and her teammates made history and then collapsed into each others arms on the gray, plastic temporary volleyball court covering the concrete floor of UVU’s UCCU Center.
“It’s the best feeling ever,” said the junior setter after she led Park City to its first ever volleyball championship with a sweep of Sky View — 25-23, 25-21, 25-21. “I can’t wait to put that trophy up (at school). In our first match, we lost against Skyridge. We all sat on the bus and we talked about it. We discussed it and set this goal. Ever since then, we do simple things each day, and it was in our minds to accomplish this goal. In our workout room, it was for state. In each rep, it was for state. Avoiding sugar, it was for state. Everything.”
Smith ran the Miners' offense masterfully, earning 35 assists in feeding the team’s talented cadre of hitters. Bryn Simmons finished with seven kills, while Grace Stover added six kills. Junior Grace Wiczek led all hitters with 19 kills, while the team earned 43 kills against a tough and resilient Sky View team.
“The night before, I couldn’t sleep,” Smith said. “I was dreaming of volleyball, of this match. We’ve just been so excited for this.”
Wiczek said the disappointment she felt about her performance in last year’s fourth-place finish fueled her own efforts.
“I definitely took a big burden when we lost last year,” she said. “I wasn’t able to perform when it mattered most, and that really hit me. I had been in so many situations like that, and I was frustrated that it always came down to me underperforming.”
She said the affection she felt for her teammates only made her feel worse about being unable to help the team achieve that championship last season. “It’s upsetting when you’re devoted so much and you put in so much effort, you just want to give them your best,” she said of her teammates. “You want to play for them, and that’s what they deserve is your best. So I definitely thought of that feeling from last year, and it motivated me, and really I think the whole team, throughout the season.”
Park City finished the season 20-3 and earned the region title, for the fourth time in school history, without a loss. The Miners and Bobcats battled for every point in the first set, with Park City edging Sky View.
“It was a battle from the get-go,” said Park City coach Matt Carlson, who celebrated his first state championship as a head coach. “We expected a battle, and we just played one point at a time. It really could have gone either way.”
That first-set win seemed to swing the momentum of the match in Park City’s favor, even though the Bobcats made some runs and had some great moments.
“I think when you’re able to get that win in the first set in a state tournament, it helps give you some confidence that you can do this,” he said. “That was a big win. That really set the tone for us to keep going.”
Sky View head coach Sheila Sorenson said she was proud of the people her players are off the court and the effort they gave Thursday night on the court.
“Win or lose, we are champions,” she said. “They have the character of a champion and that’s what they’ll carry with them the rest of their lives. They fight hard battles, and they’ll come across harder things than a volleyball match, so I want them to take that with them. I’m so honored to be their coach.”
Carlson praised his entire team effort, but especially Smith.
“It’s just unbelievable,” Carlson said of the title. “I’m super excited for the Park City community to bring home a state championship trophy.”