PLEASANT GROVE — In a battle of the Utah County volleyball heavyweights, Pleasant Grove ran over the Lone Peak Knights in three easy games, 25-18, 25-19, 25-14.
Though it's the third time the two teams have met this season, it's the first match that really counts as the two squared off in Region 4 competition. Pleasant Grove has taken it to Lone Peak each of the three times they've played.
"In matches between Lone Peak and Pleasant Grove it always comes down to their blocking versus our offense, and I think we won that battle tonight," said Pleasant Grove coach Mike Daniel. "I think we surprised them."
The Vikings are ranked No. 2 in 5A behind Brighton, and Lone Peak lies right behind them at No. 3. The two teams met last year in the 4A finals with the Knights taking the title right out from under Pleasant Grove for the second year in a row. These two teams have built a volleyball rivalry to a new level, and the fans show up in great support for both teams.
"The crowds just keep getting meaner and meaner each year. I think it was a factor the first ten points, but after that it was business as usual," Daniel said.
His team was solid and clean all match long after falling behind 3-9 in the first game. They finished it off, however, with a 22-9 run as Lone Peak's defense, passing and hitting became a little sloppy, and the Vikings showed just how balanced they could be.
The team recorded 27 kills, but other than Hailey Jeppson, who is headed to BYU on a volleyball scholarship and pounded out 11 kills for the Vikings, none of the other team members smacked down more than four. The Vikings also handed Lone Peak a little of their own medicine as they put down eight blocks in the match and added 16 block assists.
That's a pretty good match for Pleasant Grove," said Daniel.
The Vikings are throwing a scare into most 5A teams in the state, and for good reason. Six of the seven seniors on the team have received scholarship offers to play volleyball in colleges or universities. And since the Vikings load it up on the serve, with Kortney Robinson and her powerful jump serve leading the way, they start most points with a quick advantage.
"By far serving and passing make or break a high school team," added Daniel.
Lone Peak coach Deanna Meyer agreed, adding that right now her team is fighting a battle with consistency in those areas. Her teams have always been noted for their great defense, but "you can't rely on blocking to win the game, you have to have an offense, too," she noted.
Part of Lone Peak's consistency problems are based around one of the team's top hitters attempting to return from a shoulder injury. Jackie Fotu returned full time for the first time this season last night against the Vikings, and Meyer notes that her hitting isn't completely up to par yet, but she did block well in the match.
"Some of the other players may be hitting better right now," said Meyer, "but in the end she's gonna be in there, and the team has to get used to playing with her."