SPANISH FORK — Spanish Fork took American Fork to the limit before finally succumbing in a tightly contested Game 5 on Thursday in prep volleyball.
The Dons have suffered one disappointment after another, but they proved they never gave up in the 24-26, 25-16, 24-26, 25-13, 15-12 loss.
Team leader Diane Stewart was lost for the season a couple of weeks ago during warmups for a match against Springville when she tore her ACL. But the Dons still have plenty of fight even if they don't have the experience.
"It's devastating to lose your best player," said Spanish Fork coach Amber Newell. "I'm still recovering. This is going to be a rebuilding year, a retraining year for the younger players."
It would have been hard enough on the Dons this season in probably the toughest region in the state, but losing Stewart and two other key players in Nickelle Corless and Sherry Still, at around the same time, was devastating.
The team is now starting sophomores at both outside positions and a sophomore at setter. Senior Marianne Weight and junior Kelsy Hales are now the team leaders on the suddenly inexperienced squad. The team does still have a Stewart as Diane's younger sister Nachelle stepped in and is now starting for the Dons, but though Newell believes she has as much if not more potential than her sister, she lacks Diane's seasoning.
"These kids proved tonight that they could stay in it," Newell said. "Volleyball is so tempo-changing. It just switches all the time."
The fickle momentum bounced back and forth as both teams went on long runs before giving up several points in a row to the other team. But the American Fork firepower finally overcame in the end.
Alisha King led both teams with 18 kills.
"She pulled us through in the end. Offensively she was phenomenal," American Fork coach Chad Murray said. Shantell Durrant, on the other hand, was a little off with only 12 kills, but she still proved that when she gets hold of one, it's gone.
"Shantell was overrunning the sets. She had a hard time with timing tonight," Murray said.
Jenna Toone added nine kills as the setter in addition to her 28 assists.
But Murray was disappointed in the way his team played in contrast to Newell's enthusiasm about Spanish Fork's performance.
"I have to instill that it's not done until it's done. I think we got a little overconfident in those two games," said Murray about the two games his team gave away after holding leads near the end.
"The big difference in the games we won was the attitude we had on the court. Those other games, we were thinking they were in the bag."
Hales pounded out 12 kills for Spanish Fork in the losing effort, and Marianne Weight added eight.
In other prep volleyball games Thursday:
NORTHRIDGE DEF. VIEWMONT 23-25, 20-25, 25-21, 25-15, 16-14: After dropping the first two games, the Knights were able to take the last three for the victory. Chelsey Denesha led Northridge with 15 kills and seven digs and Ericka Evans added 12 kills and four digs. Micah Lines led Viewmont with 33 kills and 39 digs.
DAVIS DEF. LAYTON 25-19, 25-10, 25-19: The Darts were able to dominate for three straight games, led by Kayla Walker with 23 kills. Amy Dunford had 5 blocks and eights kills and Tara Anderson added 10 straight service points and 11 digs.
HILLCREST DEF. JORDAN 27-25, 25-20, 25-15: The Huskies picked up their first Region 2 victory despite 14 kills from Cassy LePrey of the Beetdiggers.
BRIGHTON DEF. TAYLORSVILLE 25-23, 25-23, 25-15: The Bengals swept the Warriors to remain undefeated in region play.
SKYLINE DEF. ALTA 29-27, 25-15, 26-24: Skyline came back in the first and third games to eventually win the battle of the unbeatens.
RIVERTON DEF. WEST JORDAN 26-24, 25-21, 25-16: The Silverwolves swept the Jaguars despite nine kills from Jessie Smith.
COPPER HILLS DEF. KEARNS 25-21, 25-22, 18-25, 23-25, 15-9: The Grizzlies beat the Cougars in five games. Chelsey Sandberg, Copper Hills, had 17 kills and seven blocks. Jori Donaldson, Copper Hills, had 12 kills and two blocks. Lee Vance, Copper Hills, had nine kills and 10 blocks. Katelynn Warren had one kill and 29 assists for the Grizzlies.
HUNTER DEF. BINGHAM 24-26, 25-22, 25-22, 25-21: The Wolverines had 42 team kills and 90 team digs in the victory over the Miners.
BONNEVILLE DEF. BOX ELDER 20-25, 25-12, 25-19, 15-25, 15-11: The Lakers were able to win the fifth game, taking the victory from the Bees. Alex Dehart led Bonneville with eight kills and eight digs, with Paige Anderson adding 13 kills and 5 blocks.
MOUNTAIN CREST DEF. WOODS CROSS 25-20, 25-18, 25-21:Jaicee Kuresa had 16 kills and 15 digs and Kindra Mornay added 36 assists and seven kills in the Mustangs' victory.
HIGHLAND DEF. COTTONWOOD 25-15, 25-21, 25-20:Valerie Iloa led the Rams with 10 kills and five aces, while setter Suan Harris finished with 48 assists as the Rams upset No. 2 Cottonwood.
MURRAY DEF. GRANGER 21-25, 25-19, 25-21, 17-25, 15-9:Mindy Schvanezeldt had 21 kills and Cristen Lemmert added four aces, 43 assists and four kills in the Spartans' victory.
WASATCH DEF. JUDGE MEMORIAL 25-20, 21-25, 25-20, 25-23:Christina Pazzi had eight kills and Mikalyn Paulson racked up 31 digs in the Wasps' victory over the Bulldogs.
SPRINGVILLE DEF. PAYSON 25-18, 19-25, 25-20, 17-25, 15-9:Danielle Taylor led the Red Devils with 13 kills in a five-game win over the Lions. Jamie Holman had seven kills and eight blocks for Payson.
NORTH SANPETE DEF. CARBON 24-26, 28-26, 25-20, 19-25, 15-7:Megan Olsen had 26 service points and Janelle Kendall added 15 blocks, leading the Hawks to a region win. Erika May added nine blocks for North Sanpete.
MORGAN DEF. PARK CITY 25-17, 25-18, 25-18: The Trojans swept the Miners to stay undefeated in Region 10.
UINTAH DEF. UNION 25-21, 25-13, 25-9: The Utes were able to take three straight in a victory over the Cougars. Kayley Paglajen and Lexi White each had 11 digs, Tiffany Petersen had 27 assists and Jessica Labrum added nine digs and nine kills.
BEAR RIVER DEF. BEN LOMOND 25-14, 25-11, 25-8:Erika Parks had 11 kills and Katy Christianson added 13 service points and 12 assists in the Bears' win over the Scots.
TOOELE DEF. OGDEN 26-24, 25-21, 25-22:Jessica Mortinsen had five kills and Carley Bitters added 21 assists and four aces to lift the Buffalo over the Tigers.
PAROWAN DEF. KANAB 19-25, 25-22, 25-23, 25-15: After dropping the opening game, the Rams were able to take the next three to win the match. Megan Hulet gave Parowan a spark from the bench.
WATERFORD DEF. JUAB 25-10, 25-16, 25-16: The Ravens swept the Wasps to remain undefeated in region play.
NORTH SUMMIT DEF. ROWLAND HALL 20-25, 25-17, 25-19, 25-20:Kelli Stewart and Mickinze Hatch each had eight kills in the victory for the Indian Brave and Ann Edwards had 24 assists for the Winged Lion.
DUCHESNE DEF. TABIONA 25-23, 17-25, 21-25, 25-19, 15-11: Duchesne beat the Tigers in a tough five-game match to stay undefeated in Region 16.
ALTAMONT DEF. MANILA 25-16, 25-16, 25-23: The Long Horns swept the Mustangs to capture their first Region 16 victory.
INTERMOUNTAIN CHRISTIAN DEF. CHRISTIAN HERITAGE 25-16, 25-13, 25-12: The Lions swept the Crusaders in three games. Monica Schwarz had seven kills and three aces for Intermountain Christian.
SALT LAKE LUTHERAN DEF. ST. JOSEPH 25-21, 25-20, 25-22: Behind precision passing from Brannigan Roeber and Heather Hoyer, the Lynx swept the Jayhawks in three games. Carly Barner had 15 kills and eight assists for Salt Lake Lutheran.