OREM — The last time Lori Salvo was dressed in brown and cradling a state championship trophy she was a teenager.
More than three decades later, the Davis High head volleyball coach led her alma mater to its first state title since she won the championship as a senior in 1975.
"Davis hasn't won the state title since then," she said wiping away tears after the Darts swept Lehi 25-17, 25-17, 25-19 to win the 5A state volleyball title at the UCCU Events Center Saturday night. "I'm so proud of my girls. I think we just got better and better."
Salvo had retired from coaching and was teaching at Viewmont, where she won two volleyball titles, when she was enticed back into the game by the school she'd played for as a girl. She knew this year's team had the ability to win a state championship, but the season was filled with inconsistencies, doubt and some disappointing losses.
The most jarring was a region loss to Fremont.
"In the beginning, we went from hearing that Davis was all that, and then we lost to Fremont," said Richins. "It humbled us. We didn't underestimate anyone from that moment on. We wanted this so bad."
Losing to Fremont at the beginning of region play did more than humble the Darts. It literally changed the way the Darts played the game. Instead of relying on one setter to run the offense, Salvo convinced junior outside hitter Camille Walker to turn herself into a setter so she could run a 6-2 offense, which utilizes two setters to run the offense.
"Halfway through the season, I knew I needed to get her hands on the ball more," said Salvo. "You just want your best players to touch the ball as much as possible."
Despite the fact that Walker had never set before this season, she put in a little extra time and it made a huge difference in the team's ability to keep defenses guessing.
"It was really scary because I've never set before," said Walker, a junior. "It totally changed things, but we've been winning ever since."
Teammate Candace Richins adds, "She's been amazing!"
Walker led the Darts Saturday night with 11 kills, 15 assists, nine digs and five blocks. Richins added 15 kills, six digs, four blocks and three assists. Junior outside Kaylie Kamahu finished with six kills, five digs and two aces, one of which was the match winning serve.
The key to stymieing the Lehi offense was finding a way to control their middle hitters — Bree Bailey and Hailee Rupp. Each of them finished the match with six kills, and couldn't do more damage because the Davis blockers played an almost flawless match.
Lauren Stringham played her best game of the season with five kills, five blocks and four digs. Jenessa Sargent added six blocks in the effort. Senior Bailey picked up 13 digs, while Kendall Sargent, sophomore outside, added 16 assists and three digs.
"That's a tough team," said Lehi head coach Jamie Ingersoll. "We had some chances, but we had too many missed serves. Other than that one game, I am really proud of our kids. It's our first year back in 5A, and to be in the finals is pretty impressive. You can't ask for more than a shot, and we had a shot."
And Ingersoll liked the way her team played despite the loss.
"They went out fighting and swinging, like they have all year," she said.
Madi Memmott added nine kills and 15 digs in the loss.
Salvo said the team talked a lot about the potential she saw in the players. But it was the win over Pleasant Grove in the quarterfinals on Friday night that really helped her team turn a corner.
"They finally felt it," she said choking back emotion. "There was no turning back after that. We got down, and it didn't even phase them. Before, they might panic, but they just played. All they thought about was doing their job."
And Salvo reminded them to take in the experience — because, as she knows, it isn't something that happens everyday or to everyone.
"We talked about the ride, and about having fun," she said. "We talked about keeping our eye on the prize and enjoying all of this."
In earning the 5A title, Davis had to beat last year's champions, Lone Peak, last year's runner-up, Pleasant Grove, and the team that tied both of those teams for the Region 4 title, Lehi.
The Taylorsville Warriors earned third place in the 5A tournament with a five-set thriller over last year's champion Lone Peak.
5A ALL-TOURNAMENT VOLLEYBALL TEAM
MVP — Candace Richins, Davis
Camille Walker, Davis
Baylie Henrie, Davis
Bree Bailey, Lehi
Hailee Rupp, Lehi
Mikayla Dunford, Lehi
Sam Staker, Taylorsville
Kizzy Willey, Lone Peak