After two straight state championship runner-up finishes, Copper Hills is on a mission this season to finally claim the title that it has come so close to winning, and so far, that title-hungry campaign has gotten off to a near perfect start.
With a straight-set victory over Fremont Thursday evening at their home gym, the Grizzlies improved to 2-0 on the season and have yet to drop a set.
The strong start to the season is a welcome development for head coach Silver Fonua and his squad that, despite having plenty of seniors, was mostly watching from the sidelines as the Grizzlies made two straight appearances in the 6A championship game.
Four starters return from last year’s group, but Fonua said that the players who didn’t get much time last year still soaked in all they could from the bench as the team played on big stages.
“Having gone through two state championship appearances teaches you a lot of things,” Fonua said. “The biggest thing you’ll notice is that we don’t have many times where we give up points in large streaks. That is a direct result from going to the championship twice. We’re very resilient because we’ve been through everything.”
The resilience showed often Thursday evening as Copper Hills would routinely start its sets off strong but face strong comeback attempts from a Fremont side that showed a fair amount of resilience in its own right.
When Copper Hills jumped out to a 15-3 lead in the third set, the Silverwolves rallied furiously, cutting the lead to as little as four points. Fonua said moments like the third set showed that resiliency as the Grizzlies staved off the comeback attempt to win the set and the match against a Fremont team that Fonua labeled as a perennial final four team.
“We knew we weren’t going to cruise through this game against (Fremont),” Fonua said. “We had to work really, really hard to pull off a straight-set victory like this. Fremont is well-coached, they have great players and they’re solid.”
Fonua also mentioned that he was pleased with the way his “undersized” team performed against the stature and size of Fremont, saying that his team’s service game is what allowed it to be successful.
“We served tough. Not necessarily aces, but serves where they had to send us back the ball,” Fonua said about the key to victory. “That’s our game plan. We’ll serve tough, you’ll give us a ball that you have to hit off the net and we’ll execute and put the point away as soon as we get it.”
The most notable performances for Copper Hills came from seniors Lolo Fonua and Randi Reeves, who were both named to All-State teams last season as juniors. Fonua displayed incredible power throughout the evening, finishing with a blistering 17 kills, while Reeves, who has been the team’s libero for both championship appearances, played all over the court, finishing with 19 digs and five assists.
Fonua couldn’t say enough good things about those two seniors after the game.
“Randi has instincts that you just can’t teach. She can just read tendencies and patterns early and it makes it look like she knows where the ball is going before it gets there,” Fonua said before going on to praise Lolo Fonua, his niece.
“Lolo is a big part of our game plan,” Silver Fonua said. “We have her set the tone really early and it disrupts the defense so they’re thinking about her most of the time, which allows us to set the ball to other players with one-on-one blocks.”
The atmosphere throughout the evening was not that of an average early season volleyball match, as the Copper Hills supporters and students came out in large numbers to cheer the team on.
Fonua said that his players fed off the energy that their fans and supporters brought to the game.
“The success that we’ve had here at Copper Hills is the reason people come out,” Fonua said. “Those cheers have been feeding us for the past four or five years and we’re pretty used to it, even last year during COVID, because people are excited about what they see.”
Copper Hills will look to keep its hot start going, but won’t have the luxury of home fans at its next game at Corner Canyon on Aug. 26.