No. 1 Intermountain Christian matched up with No. 2 Panguitch for Saturday evening’s 1A volleyball state championship held at the UCCU Center on Utah Valley University’s campus.
The two schools’ first meeting of the year was eventful as the Lions took down the Bobcats three sets to one.
The two squads had a lot to prove after both making it to last season’s state semifinal, where they each fell 3-1.
They made up for last season’s premature exits early on in the day Saturday to advance to the evening’s final.
Intermountain Christian defeated Rich 3-2, returning the favor to the school that ousted it a year ago. Panguitch overcame Puite in four sets, winning the final set in dominating fashion 25-8.
Still, neither Intermountain Christian nor Panguitch were willing to settle for anything less than a state title, but in the end, the Lions found a way to achieve the ultimate goal, and it couldn’t have felt better for a team that has struggled through the years to make it past the semifinal round.
“I’m on cloud nine right now,” Intermountain Christian head coach Lorenzo Gasper said with emotion. “It’s our very first state championship for volleyball in our program ever. I’m just happy for the girls, the school, the administration. It’s such a great feeling.”
Intermountain Christian’s first state championship denied Panguitch a fourth title in five years, making the win extra sweet.
“Panguitch coach Troy Norris, he’s an amazing coach and they have an amazing program,” Gasper said. “It was a hard-fought game between both of us and I have my hat off to coach Troy Norris.”
Intermountain Christian jumped out to an early lead on Panguitch in set one, never trailing en route to a 25-15 win. The Lions had an answer for every Bobcats run, using a balanced attack that included four service aces to keep from ever facing a deficit.
The second set was different from the first, however, as Panguitch went out in front early. With the set eventually tied at 18, though, Intermountain Christian turned to senior outside hitter Rachel Jensen, who scored three straight points for the Lions, giving them a big enough cushion to finish things off 25-20.
With its season on the line, Panguitch refused to go away. The Bobcats gained more and more steam as the third set went on, taking a five-point lead mid-set and ultimately winning it 25-21.
After losing momentum, Intermountain Christian was determined to gain it back and finish what it had started. The Lions rallied each other.
“We said ‘We’re one set away from winning this. We need to dig deep, dial in, and take it home,’” Jensen said.
The fourth set saw Intermountain Christian come together and pull away as it neared the end.
The Lions took the set 25-19 and brought home the title.
“This is something we’ve been waiting for since my freshman year,” Jensen said. “We’ve worked so hard to make it past the semifinals, and this year we finally did it and it paid off and we won.”
After three straight semifinal defeats, Intermountain Christian has broken through and made it to the top. The Lions’ first state title was a memorable one.