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Sophomore leads Pleasant Grove past American Fork

PLEASANT GROVE — Who's that girl? That's what plenty of fans at the Pleasant Grove-American Fork volleyball match were asking of the 6-foot-5 sophomore who wears No. 1 for the Vikings.

Her name is Jennifer Hamson, and she's been around all year long, but this match was her coming out party. Hamson finished with 19 monster kills as her team defeated Region 4 rival American Fork in five tough games, 23-25, 25-20, 26-24, 22-25, 15-11.

"She played awesome. She just tore it up," said Pleasant Grove coach Mandi Nuttall.

And Hamson did it all on a bad ankle.

"It's playable but uncomfortable for her. It didn't seem to be bothering her tonight," added Nuttall, who noted before the match just how much Hamson has improved over the course of the past few weeks.

That improvement has been so intense that the girl whose hits used to be tentative are now jaw-dropping at times.

"We seriously have to stop practice sometimes to breathe in awe of a kill. I'm glad we don't have to stop her because sometimes she can be impossible to defend," said Nuttall, who added that Hamson has developed into a player who has every shot in her arsenal.

The Vikings needed every one of them against a tough American Fork squad that had already beaten them once in league action this season.

This was a bit of a grudge match as the Cavemen topped the Vikings at American Fork in both teams' first region match of the season. But since that time, Pleasant Grove has been settling into a new rotation. The girls are finally getting used to their new roles after losing outside hitter Danica Mendivil early in the season.

"That first American Fork loss was a tough loss for us, but this time we played well. We're a different team now," Nuttall said.

And that team didn't entirely rely on Hamson's newly improved arm as Brooke McAllister added 11 kills in a strong hitting effort. Melissa Rider put up a wall at the net with 10 blocks.

The team's passing was also impressive, and Kemi McFarland put up 43 assists and a couple of late kills that put her Vikings over the edge.

But it wasn't all Vikings as American Fork wasn't about to go down without a fight. The Cavemen came out strong, taking the first game after battling through 14 ties and eight lead changes, finishing it off on a service ace by Makenzie Moea'i, who finished the match with 15 tough kills. She was definitely the star on the Cavemen side of the court.

Game 2 belonged to Pleasant Grove after a 9-9 tie, but after the Vikings took a 22-16 lead, the Cavemen made it interesting by scoring four straight.

In Game 3, the Cavemen saved three game points before eventually losing on a tough block put up by Kim Dahl and McAllister.

It was Game 4 that frayed nerves on both ends of the court as the Vikings ran out to a lead, looking like they were going to make it easy. Eventually they found themselves ahead 21-16 on a block by McAllister and Rider. But that was as close as they'd get to closing things out in four.

The Cavemen went on an eight-point run, eventually taking a 24-21 lead and finishing off the game on a Pleasant Grove service error.

"Once we get those runs in control, we'll be really tough to beat," said Nuttall about the Game 4 collapse.

But her team had no such problems in the fifth game as McAllister finished things off with a tough kill to end the match.

The two teams are now tied for second place in Region 4 with identical 4-2 records.