That was crazy. —Samantha Stephens of the final set's 34-32 score.
OREM — For both players and coaches, the last set of the 2A volleyball championship defied description.
“I don’t even know how to explain those last 10 points,” said North Summit’s lone senior Hunter Vernon after the Braves earned a back-to-back 2A title with 25-23, 24-26, 25-23, 34-32 sets. “They were exhausting and they were so exciting and emotional, all in one.”
As the two powerhouses traded what would have been knockout blows in any other match, the toughest thing was to continue swinging away.
“Being that tired, it’s hard to swing away,” said a sweat-soaked Vernon, who finished with 20 kills. “Especially when Enterprise has such a tough block. But it’s your last game; you’ve got to leave it out on the court.”
Both coaches said they’d never been part of such a hard-fought match.
“That was crazy,” said Samantha Stephens of the final set’s 34-32 score. “(In the timeouts) I just said, ‘We’ve got to keep siding out. But they kept siding out. It was just a battle, back and forth.”
She said she hoped to avoid a fifth game because the teams were so evenly matched.
“They did what they had to do,” she said of her players. “It was awesome.”
Vernon was the team’s leader, but the Braves had plenty of contributions. Sophomore Kennady McQueen and junior middle hitter Brecklyn Murdock earned 11 kills each. Junior setter Hannah Lamon finished with 42 assists in the win.
For Enterprise, Jaslyn Gardner seemed to do it all for the Wolves with 19 kills, seven blocks and 19 digs. Junior middle hitter Ronnie Robinson had a monster match with 18 kills, while outside Jessica Holt added 10 kills. Setter Allie Laub finished with 45 assists and libero Timorie Phelps earned 21 digs.
“We expected a barn-burner, and it was well-played,” said Enterprise head coach Brian Phelps. “We had our chances in two games and didn’t put it away. They earned it.” He called the season “a lot of fun.”
“We knew it was going to come down to this battle right here,” Phelps said. “This was one of the best championship matches. Every game we went back and forth, back and forth. I’d have liked to make one more play or two.”
Vernon, who was just cleared to play in mid-September after tearing her ACL at the start of the basketball playoffs last year, was the team’s “go-to girl,” Stephens said.
“This year is so much different than last year,” Vernon said. “Being the only senior, it’s been great to be the leader and to see all the young girls grow and grow in their game. It’s been the best experience.”
Two of her teammates — McQueen and Teesha Richins — were playing in their first state tournament. Stephens said they were a bit nervous at the start of the weekend, but played like stone-cold veterans Saturday night.
Vernon injured her other knee as a sophomore, and she admitted dealing with injuries has been frustrating.
“But there are things to be learned from everything,” she said. “I wouldn’t trade it. I think it was good for me.”
The knee was bothering her some in this weekend’s tournament, but she said the win “makes up for everything.”
And as for those lessons, she said there were many.
“I learned how supportive my community was, my family was,” she said. “Sports sometimes isn’t everything. That’s about all my perspective was before my injury. I was able to step back and work on other things. I learned how to work hard, work with people around me, and be more grateful. Not take (people) for granted.”