When a Utah high school state tournament rolls around, every team knows each game is important. It’s win or go home.
However, both the Provo Bulldogs and Olympus Titans felt like winners following their first-round match Tuesday night in the 5A girls volleyball tournament.
The 30th-seeded Bulldogs, who won just four matches all year, started the evening by rallying from two-game deficit to edge No. 19 Cedar Valley, then gave Olympus a brief scare before the heavily favored Titans regrouped to win 25-20, 25-13, 23-25, 25-13.
Despite the loss, Provo coach Meleane Lavaki was all smiles afterward.
“It was awesome,” she said. “When we were down, we put in our seniors and asked them to carry us, and they did.”
The seniors provided a spark against Cedar Valley, and the Aviators and their large group of fans celebrated on Oly’s home floor. However, about 20 minutes later, the Titans had too much talent and the rode the abilities of players like Claire Dowdell to advance to the second round, where they will play neighborhood rival Skyline in a Thursday morning contest at Utah Valley University.
“We watched that first game (between Provo and Cedar Valley) and knew that they potentially could (stage another rally),” said Olympus coach Leeah Dahle. “We had to decide how badly we wanted to win.”
Lavaki said she and a few Bulldog fans texted frequent updates to coach Josie Havea, who recently left her post on maternity leave, but has kept a close watch on her team. Havea must have had an exciting evening from afar as the Bulldogs were beaten 16-25 and 21-25 to Cedar Valley, but then stormed back 25-21, 26-24 and 15-11 to earn a shot at Olympus.
The Bulldogs said they couldn’t keep up at first, but each coach admitted they felt the momentum change when Provo earned the narrow win in the third game. It didn’t last long, though, and when Olympus roared back, both teams felt good about what they had accomplished.
“We had a lot of support,” said Lavaki. “We’ll keep building on this and be better next year.”
Dahle echoed a similar feeling and said she looked forward to a third match this season against Skyline, knowing the state tourney atmosphere and another chance to play their rival will keep her team motivated.
“Every win builds confidence,” she said. “We know we’ll have our work cut out for us but you never know what might happen with each game.”