Our middles, all season long, have been phenomenal blockers. —Box Elder head coach Kristine Harding
OREM — In an intense, five-set match, two of the best teams in 5A squared off for volleyball state championship. Bountiful entered as the favorite, having won back-to-back state titles, but — in an upset — Box Elder emerged victorious, winning 3-2 (25-23, 23-25, 25-17, 25-27, 15-8) to claim the championship over its rival, whom it had lost to two times in the regular season, falling 3-0 each time.
“The first time we played them, I felt that Bountiful came out hot and heavy, and it was almost like 'deer in the headlights.' We couldn’t quite adjust fast enough. After the first match, we went back to the drawing board, we watched the film, match two, we knew we could hang with them,” Box Elder head coach Kristine Harding said. “We knew we could block-to-block, defense-to-defense, we just had to have our ball control, but we knew we could hang with them. At the state tournament, it is hard to beat somebody three times in a row, and they went after it and they got it.”
The match, which featured some long points and two teams close in skill, felt destined to go the distance.
“We knew that it was going to go five sets. We always plan on it with Bountiful, because they’re one of our toughest teams,” Box Elder senior middle blocker Shayna Baugh said.
Harding credited her team’s blocking, defense and serve receiving as key to the Bees’ championship win. In particular, Baugh stepped up for Box Elder.
“Our middles, all season long, have been phenomenal blockers. To Bountiful’s credit, they have such fast arm swings, but tonight, she (Baugh) got up, she pressed up and over the net, and as quickly as she blocked, she was off, ready to slam the ball down their throats,” Harding said.
Box Elder got off to a good start, seizing momentum after winning the first set. Before the championship game, the Braves had not dropped a set in the state tournament.
“I felt they needed one set to know that they could beat them. We had one. Two-time returning state champs, phenomenal athletes, but the pressure mounts as soon as you take one set from them,” Harding said.
“It was great. It let them know that we could do it,” Baugh said.
Bountiful rallied to win the second set, but Box Elder didn’t roll over. The Bees won seven of the first ten points in the third set to set the tone, and took the third set. In the fourth set, Box Elder had match point, but the Braves showed impressive fight to deny the Bees and force a winner-take-all fifth set.
In the fifth, Box Elder took over the match, winning five straight points to take control. When the Bees had match point in the final set, they took advantage. On match point, senior Andreanna McKee spiked the ball off a Bountiful player, and the Bees dissolved into a screaming, crying, joyous pile.
“I’m excited, I’m just on edge right now. I’m really sad that it’s my last year, but I’m glad I could go out with a bang,” Baugh said.