Both No. 1 Ridgeline and No. 2 Desert Hills easily advanced to the 4A state championship Thursday at Utah Valley University, ending in a comfortable state title victory for the Riverhawks. Ridgeline got things done when it mattered most, lopsidedly defeating the Thunder three sets to none.
The two schools entered the title matchup at the top of their games, each team only losing one set throughout the state tournament. Ridgeline soon added to its win tally, taking all three sets in the final match of the season.
When asked how the Riverhawks were able to win so convincingly, Ridgeline head coach Jaicee Roden gave all the credit to her team. “The girls work hard on the court, they work hard off the court,” she said. “They’re disciplined. All credit goes to them. They came ready to play.”
The Riverhawks were more than ready to play Thursday evening, topping the Thunder with ease in the first set 25-12 despite trailing early. Each set that followed had a similar feel with Deseret Hills jumping out to an early lead before watching Ridgeline come back and win.
“We were the No. 1 seed and didn’t want to get cocky,” Roden said. “Sometimes it’s comfortable when you’re a No. 1 seed. We had a game plan coming in. The girls did an excellent job executing that game plan. We wanted to out-work and out-earn (our opponents).”
The next two sets were closer than the first as the Riverhawks and Thunder traded blows. Ridgeline held on, picking up a 26-24 win to take a two-set lead. After falling behind by six in the last set, the Riverhawks turned it on to outscore the Thunder 19-6 down the stretch and win 25-18.
Whenever Ridgeline needed to generate stops and get some points it did just that. The offense ran through junior setter Nia Damuni who assisted her teammates throughout the night.
“We came prepared. We worked hard in practice. We just came to play,” Damuni said. “I’ve never been on a team where we’re so close. Everyone is working hard for each other. It’s just fun to play when everyone is working hard with each other.”
The Riverhawks had a little extra motivation this season after one of their players was diagnosed with cancer. “It’s been quite a journey. One of our own got diagnosed with leukemia in September,” Roden said. “Adee Swanton, she’s currently in Primary Children’s. She’s in her second round of chemo, and so far, she’s responding pretty nicely.”
Swanton stayed connected with her coach and teammates, even celebrating via video chat after the Riverhawks’ win.
Swanton and Ridgeline fought through adversity this season. “We did this for our teammate Adee,” Damuni said. “That was our purpose to play this season. It’s the first Ridgline state title.”
Ridgeline hopes it won’t be the last. For now there is joy to Millville as the Riverhawks come home 2021 state champions.