Rich High School’s volleyball team was the first to punch its ticket to Saturday’s 1A semifinals game by clobbering Bryce Valley and Monticello in 3-0 matches in Richfield Friday.
“We’ve really focused on our fundamentals this year,” said head coach Wendy Lamborn. “It’s a serve and receive game. If you can serve and if you can receive, you can take care of the rest.”
The Rebels racked up one of the best records in 1A volleyball this year at 20-6, finished the regular season as the top seed in the RPI and went undefeated in region play.
“We work hard,” Lamborn said “It takes a lot of patience. We have a great bunch group of girls.”
Darlene Peterson has been helping to lead the charge this season as the team’s outside hitter, Lamborn said. However, during the tournament so far, Elly Argyle has also proven to be invaluable for Rich.
“They’re our two seniors and they’ve really stepped up,” Lamborn said. “Their cheer is, ‘Process,’ and to them that means you do your fundamentals, you do your basics and everything else will come.”
When it comes to the semifinals and finals Saturday, Rich has a simple strategy.
“We need to do what our team does best,” Lamborn said. “If we do that, we can be really deadly.”
Rich will play its region foe Tabiona in the semifinals.
“We’ve played them twice and haven’t been able to get them yet,” said Tabiona head coach Kaylie Defa. “But we’re playing our best volleyball now.”
Tabiona outlasted Green River in a 25-16, 25-22, 17-25, 25-21 match before beating Wayne 25-13, 25-17, 25-18 Friday afternoon.
“You just do what you can,” Defa said. “Keep every point clean and let them make the errors.”
The Tigers came into the tournament as the No. 4 seed and have had to deal with some added challenges.
“We just tell them to be tough,” Defa said. “We’ve had some injuries and some sick girls this week and we only have 12 on our roster. Any girl may be thrown into any position at any time.”
Defa said seniors Mercedes Roberts and Taylor Thomas have been key to the team this year, while junior Addy Allred has come out as the team’s biggest hitter.
“The tournament is honestly so wide open that whoever shows up could take it all,” Defa said. “I feel like we have just as good of a shot as anyone.
“We have a small group that’s willing to do whatever it takes.”
On the other side of the bracket, Panguitch was able to route Tintic and Wendover, both in three sets.
“We have a lot of girls with really good ball control who can put it away when they need to,” said Panguitch head coach Troy Norris.
The Bobcats have built an almost identical record to Rich, going 22-6 overall and 8-0 in region play.
Rich was able to beat Panguitch three weeks ago, which resulted in the Rebels taking the too spot in the RPI.
Five seniors lead Panguitch on the floor, including Adelaide Englestead, Lexie Palmer, Hailie Wilcox, Alexis Allen and Debbie Jean Henrie.
“We’ve been relying on them a lot,” Norris said. “They are all peaking when they need to.“
Next for Panguitch is a rematch against region rival Piute.
“We know Piute is a very good team that’s been coming along,” Norris said, adding that while Panguitch beat them earlier this year, the Thunderbirds have elevated their game and can’t be overlooked.
Piute’s improvement was apparent as it knocked off Valley 25-19, 25-18, 25-22 and then took out the No. 3 seed in the tournament, Manilla, 25-23, 25-11, 25-19 Friday afternoon.
“The RPI doesn’t always give a true rating of where everything is in my opinion,” said Piute head coach Eric Jesson. “Our record is very deceiving.”
Piute started the tournament as the 11th seed. The T-birds have have been trying a lot of different things through the season to refine their game while dealing with injuries and figuring out how to fill voids left by last year’s seniors.
“My setter Tara Morgan was our best hitter last year,” Jesson said. “When we started playing our best was when she started setting all the way around. She really makes everyone around her better.”
Jesson said the team also has a great hitter in Brooklyn Jessen and a leader in libero Cooper Fautin. Vallee Northington has also stepped up to help Piute as the season progressed, Jesson said.
“We’re a good team. We can hit well and we can pass well,” Jesson said. “I have a lot of respect for Panguitch. They’ve built a great program.
“Sure it’s a rivalry, but all you really want is the chance.”