We’re really prepared. We’ve been working really hard to get here. I think it’s normal for an athlete to get nervous, but in a good way. —Seleisa Elisaia
OREM — It may seem strange that if American Fork couldn’t beat Lone Peak, Pleasant Grove or Bingham in Region 4 play, that they’d want to see all three of those teams advance to the 6A semifinals on Saturday.
But they did.
And now the fifth-ranked Cavemen face last year’s 5A champion and top-ranked Lone Peak in the 6A semifinals on Saturday.
“To be honest, we were all kind of hoping that was how it would be,” said American Fork head coach Shantell Durrant after the Cavemen closed down the opening day of tournament play with a four-set win over Herriman — 25-15, 25-22, 23-25, 25-20. “There are a lot of great teams out there, but our region is tough, and we have a lot of really good teams. That was always kind of the plan, you know, like, ‘Hey, we’ll see you in the semis.’”
Senior setter Tayler Tausinga, who earned 42 assists in the Herriman win, said she felt good about the team’s first day of matches.
“I thought it was awesome,” she said. “We came in confident and ready to play, excited, and we just gave our hardest and played as a team.”
American Fork’s match against Herriman was one of just two matches that wasn’t a sweep, and Durrant said the team got a bit complacent in their third set. “That third set we didn’t communicate,” Tausinga said. “We were letting balls drop. I am proud of my team for coming back the next set.”
Elena Hansen and Dahlia Harris led the offensive effort with 14 and seven kills, respectively. Right side freshman Hannah Smith was also key in the team’s victory, hitting .172 on the night.
For Bingham head coach Melissa Glasker, the only thing she wanted more than the Miners' success in Thursday’s matches was an all-Region 4 semifinals.
The third-seeded and fourth-ranked Miners beat Hunter (25-12, 25-4, 25-22) in the first match, and then swept Northridge 25-20, 25-17, 25-22. She said the team wants another shot at second-ranked Pleasant Grove in Saturday’s semifinal.
“I don’t think they’re fearful,” Glasker said, noting they took the Vikings to five games at Bingham during region play. “I think they want this. We work extremely hard in our gym. It’s just going to be executing, just executing at the right time, and playing some good volleyball.”
The Miners were led by senior setter Seleisa Elisaia, who showed leadership in rallying her team in the third set of each match when they started to lose focus.
“She was awesome,” Glasker said. “She carries the load. She’s one of our captains. We use her all the time to terminate. She’s a leader. She’s a good kid.”
Elisaia said she believes her team is ready to pull off an upset because of the work they put in every day leading up to Thursday’s tournament.
“We’re really prepared,” she said. “We’ve been working really hard to get here. I think it’s normal for an athlete to get nervous, but in a good way.”
Pleasant Grove’s quarterfinal win against third-ranked Syracuse (25-22, 25-11, 25-9) was “a full team effort,” according to head coach Allyce Jones. “There wasn’t just one person that stood out. It was all of them playing together at the right place and the right time.”
As a team the Vikings served 17 aces, with five of those from Hannah Waddell. Setter Baylie Bishop earned 29 assists and as a team the offense put down 36 kills.
Heather Gneiting finished with five of the team’s 10 blocks, while Waddell also led the defensive effort with 13 of the team’s 48 digs.
The Vikings beat Hillcrest in their opening round match (25-7, 25-12, 25-10).
Top-ranked Lone Peak opened the tournament with Cyprus, a fourth-seed from Region 2. The Pirates were making their first state tournament appearance in volleyball in the school’s history. The Knights swept the Pirates (25-7, 25-8, 25-8), and then went on to sweep the No. 2 seed from Region 1, Fremont (25-14, 25-15, 25-19).
“It was a good opportunity to get every person on our bench in today,” said Lone Peak head coach Reed Carlson. “We got 20 kids in today. Cyprus said it was their first time to experience the tournament, and super cool for them to come and be a part of this. I hope their program continues to grow and it was good for us to get all of our kids some opportunities to play.”
He even got a chance to let his senior defensive specialist take a few swings as an outside hitter.
“She’s always dreamed of playing outside at state, and she got the opportunity to do so,” he said. “Third set Fremont responded well and came at us a little faster, created a little more chaos on our side, and we slowed things down, and I think, finished off the way we wanted to.”
Madelyn Robinson led the team with 17 kills, Tasia Farmer added 14 kills, Olivia Evans earned 12 digs, and Jaquelyn Langhaim had 37 assists.
The Knights will take on American Fork at 12:30 p.m. Saturday in the semifinals, while Pleasant Grove and Bingham will meet at 10:30 a.m. in the other 6A semifinals. The championship game is scheduled for 8 p.m.