Sometimes it isn't blocking a fantastic hitter, serving with the game on the line or even putting the ball away that is the most difficult aspect of volleyball. Sometimes, it's what's going on in the individual lives of the players on the team that make winning such a struggle.
"We were able to deal with adversity and some issues and I think that will help us," said Highland coach Clint Barnes after the Rams defeated Snow Canyon 24-26, 25-23, 25-22, 25-19 to win the inaugural Molten Utah Classic hosted by Highland this weekend.
"There is a lot of heart on this team ..." Barnes said. "We had a lot of players who were asked to play a position they were comfortable with or take on a different role because of our situation."
That situation is still being sorted out, but two Highland players were suspended from the team Friday for violating team rules. One of those athletes is among the Rams' best hitters in junior outside Mel White. Barnes said he and his team have discussed the situation and will talk with administrators on Monday about what their options are as a squad.
"Line (Tuakalau) moved to outside and she had to take on a bigger role," said Barnes of the senior who normally plays right side. "She's a little shy and she is afraid to let people down. But I think she really came around."
Barnes said other players emerged to help carry the load left by White's absence including sophomore middle hitter Nikki Lolohea.
"It wasn't necessarily her hitting," he said. "I thought she had a very nice all-around match."
Lolohea and setter/rightside Losa Fakaosi were named to the All-Tournament team, along with outside hitters Angela Walter and Liz McArthur from Snow Canyon. Lolohea's older sister, outside/middle Brittny Lolohea was the tournament's MVP.
"Losing to Snow Canyon yesterday was a nice little wake-up call for us," Barnes said. "We hope to see them again in the state (tournament). We're grateful they came from St. George, and they were swinging. They went out swinging. That team is definitely not afraid to hit the ball. The 4A tournament is going to be a dog-fight."
Like Barnes, Snow Canyon coach Alaina Parker said her team would use the lessons learned in the tournament to improve as they head into the second round of region play.
"It was a very good experience for us," Parker said. "This being our first year in 4A, it was a good opportunity to see some of the teams."
She also liked playing a competitive tournament in the middle of the season.
"Usually we play two preseason tournaments, but the first half of our schedule was a little weak," she said. "We had 11 days with no match. Being in 4A has been a good and a bad thing. No one has been willing to come down and play us, so it's been a little bit of a struggle."
She said the match taught her team more than just what to expect from Highland should they meet a third time.
"It was a good match for us to have to work on keeping our attitude positive," she said. "It's all good practice."
McArthur finished with 23 kills and six aces in the loss, while Brittny Lolohea finished with 16 kills. Nikki Lolohea earned four solo blocks.
MVP — Brittny Lolohea, Highland
Losa Fakaosi, Highland; Niki Lolohea, Highland; Liz Mcarther. Snow Canyon; Angela Walter, Snow Canyon; Olivia Johnson, Rich; Allie Eastman, Rich; Chelsey Garfield, Morgan; Mikelle Kap, Morgan; Marion Sargent, Davis; Alex Shearer, Park City; Prasella Matemate, Murray; Dottie Lea, Jordan; Missy White, Waterford