WEST VALLEY CITY — Offenses are eye-catching, flashy and usually attract all of the kudos and attention. But any seasoned coach admit, it's really defense that wins games.
And to beat what the Taylorsville volleyball coach calls the best defense he's seen in years, the Warriors had to match that defensive play to edge the Hunter Wolverines in five games, 25-23, 18-25, 25-22, 22-25, 16-14.
"They are an incredible defensive team," said Warrior head coach Rich Kaelin. " . . . I had no idea what to expect with Hunter, and I was very impressed."
Kaelin said his team realized early on, if they wanted to win, the Wolverines were going to make them work for it.
"You have to earn your points against them," he said. "I feel very fortunate getting out of here with a win."
The Warriors got a bit frustrated when what looked like a kill or perfectly placed dump came right back at them with equal intelligence or force.
"It's really frustrating when you try everything and the ball still comes back over," said Taylorsville hitter Jorgan Staker, who finished with 17 kills and three solo blocks. "I'd rather play a game like this than an easy one . . . I like the pressure."
Every game was competitive and neither team really dominated the other. In addition to Staker's stand-out performance, the Warriors middle hitter Shawnee Slade played really well at the net with 15 kills and five solo blocks. Kim Gourley finished with eight kills and sparked the Warriors as they started the first game a bit sluggish.
"She definitely kept us in it," Kaelin said. "And Nicole Rupp played an awesome defensive game for us."
Hunter coach Pam Olson was happy about a lot of what she saw Thursday night despite the final score.
"It was a great game," she said. "We got a little too timid at the end . . . We gave them too many chances."
She believes her team is finally moving from hoping to win to expecting to win, and that can make all the difference against teams with winning traditions.
"They're slowly starting to know they can win," she said. "It's the first time one of our teams has been this confident about winning."
The team was led by Celestial Alofipo, who finished with 14 kills and Rosie Falemaka was awesome in the middle with six solo blocks and six kills. One of the game's most exciting moments came when Taylorsville spike a ball at Hunter and a player picked up the hit and then Jenice Davidson opted to hit it back instead of setting another player. The hit was a kill, and the Wolverines earned a fifth game against the Warriors.
"We have a really good group of kids," she said. "They're young, but they work hard, and they're buying into the program."
After polishing their skills, they have to find that unwavering belief in themselves.
"The confidence thing, where they decide they need to be aggressive," Olson said, "that's the difference right now."
In other volleyball action Thursday:
DAVIS DEF. WEBER 25-9, 25-15, 25-19:Mikenzy Flint's 30 assists and Kayla Walker's 18 kills paced the Darts.
VIEWMONT DEF. FREMONT 25-11, 25-5, 25-20:Cidney Judkins contributed 35 assists, eight aces, and four digs for the Vikings.
BRIGHTON DEF. RIVERTON 25-11, 25-8, 25-22: Brighton's Marisa Vandersteen and Sage Aune combined for 20 kills against Riverton as the Bengals remained unbeaten in Region 2.
BINGHAM DEF. JORDAN 25-21, 25-20, 22-25, 25-15:Heather McFarland had 26 assists and Kelsey Jorgensen added 17 digs as the Miners won in four games.
ALTA DEF. COPPER HILLS 25-18, 25-20, 25-12: Alta overpowered Copper Hills in three straight games, earning the Hawks a region win.
SKYLINE DEF. KEARNS 25-14, 25-13, 20-25, 25-21:Ashley England and Joh-tena Filipe each recorded 11 kills to lead the Eagles, who improved to 3-1 in league play with the win.
COTTONWOOD DEF. GRANGER 25-13, 25-11, 25-10:Jennifer Johnson and Tasi Talia combined for 22 kills for the Colts.
BOUNTIFUL DEF. EAST 19-25, 25-17, 25-12, 26-24:Tara Cottle's 15 kills led the Braves. Kate Nelson added 14 kills and 14 digs, while Ashley Spjut had 24 assists and 10 digs.
WEST JORDAN DEF. HILLCREST 25-18, 25-7, 25-12:Haley Sampson's 15 service points for West Jordan started and finished off Hillcrest.
WOODS CROSS DEF. WEST 25-6, 23-25, 25-14, 23-25, 15-13:Kathryn Lovell and Niesha Wilkinson led the Wildcats with 23 and 10, kills respectively.
HIGHLAND DEF. OLYMPUS 25-22, 22-25, 25-16, 22-25, 15-11:Susan Harris, Valerie Eloa, and Losa Fakaosi led the Rams to a five-game victory.
MURRAY DEF. CYPRUS 25-17, 25-18, 25-15:Lori Baird led undefeated Murray with 27 kills.
NORTH SANPETE DEF. DELTA 25-21, 25-19, 28-30, 23-25, 15-9:Jessica Aagard's 22-kill performance paced North Sanpete.
WASATCH DEF. PARK CITY 25-19, 25-19, 26-24: The Wasps quickly beat Park City with strong performances by Ashley Lythgowe and Kirra Oldham.
UNION DEF. GRANITE 25-5, 25-13, 25-20: Union started strong against Granite, allowing just five points in the first game, en route to a region win.
UINTAH DEF. JUDGE MEMORIAL 25-8, 25-17, 25-22:Maggie Bartell, Lexi White and Kayley Poglajen led Uintah with nine kills, nine digs, and 32 assists, respectively.
MORGAN DEF. BEAR RIVER 25-10, 25-14, 25-11:Eli Rees and BreAnna Haslam combined for 10 blocks against Bear River.
OGDEN DEF. GRANTSVILLE 20-25, 25-18, 25-19, 25-15:Emily Ryujin paced Ogden with 23 assists, three kills, and three aces. Dolly Buck added nine kills.
RICHFIELD DEF. SOUTH SEVIER 14-25, 25-19, 27-29, 25-22, 15-10:Brittani Willardson had 34 kills and 12 blocks in South Sevier's win. Alyse Jolley added 20 kills and 13 digs.
JUAB DEF. SOUTH SUMMIT 26-24, 25-21, 25-18: The Wasps won in three straight games.
LAYTON CHRISTIAN DEF. CHRISTIAN HERITAGE 27-25, 27-25, 21-25, 25-19:Tiffany Paker notched 14 kills and five blocks in the four-game winner for Layton Christian.
ST. JOSEPH DEF. INTERMOUNTAIN CHRISTIAN 25-21, 25-13, 25-18: Saint Joseph's Nikki Laure helped beat ICS with 15 assists.
SALT LAKE LUTHERAN DEF. MOUNT VERNON 25-19, 25-7, 25-18:Carly Barner's 11 assists and four kills paced Salt Lake Lutheran.
RICH DEF. ALTAMONT 25-18, 25-15, 25-19:Stephanie Floyd had 18 kills and Brianna Weston added 17 for Rich.
DUGWAY DEF. MERIDIAN 25-21, 25-18, 25-22: Dugway gave up an average of 20 points a game to Meridian but managed the sweep.
TINTIC DEF. WENDOVER 25-15, 25-16, 25-22: Tintic's strong play against Wendover paid off with a win.
WEST DESERT DEF. EAST CARBON 25-17, 25-13, 25-17: West Desert swept East Carbon in three straight at home.
PINE VIEW DEF. MOAPA VALLEY, NEV. 25-17, 25-23, 25-12: Erika Lindsey led Pine View with six kills and three blocks.