Ridgeline capped off a dominant playoff run with a 3-0 sweep against Desert Hills on Saturday and became back-to-back 4A state champions.
The finals were a rematch of last year’s matchup, pitting the Ridgeline Riverhawks from Millville and the Desert Hills Thunder from St. George.
In the quarterfinals and semifinals, Ridgeline had soared past Crimson Cliffs and Green Canyon. On its way to the finals, Desert Hills overcame Pine View and also had upsets on both fourth-seeded Cedar and top-seed Sky View.
Ridgeline immediately put its mark in the opening game of the finals with an early 6-0 lead. The blockers of Ridgeline made it difficult on the Thunder hitters, which caused many hits to go out of bounds.
Desert Hills also seemed to be playing through nerves, but it managed to work its way back into the game and tied it up 20-20.
But Ridgeline quickly regained control and won the first set 25-21.
In the second set, Ridgeline was much more dominant. Desert Hills was reeling, and the Thunder had a difficult time controlling passes, which allowed the Ridgeline defense to play a lot more relaxed.
Meanwhile, the Ridgeline defense was unrelenting, the offense was overwhelming and the Riverhawks were red hot, which resulted in a quick 25-8 set win.
“They did a great job. We wanted to focus on the task at hand. It wasn’t as much about what was or was not happening on the other side of the net, but it was more about focusing on what we can control on our side. They did a really, really good job setting the pace,” said Ridgeline coach Jaicee Roden.
Ridgeline clearly had all the confidence in the world after coming off a convincing set win and a 2-0 lead.
Set three was another strong win for the Riverhawks. The same issues persisted for Desert Hills, and, while they managed to pick themselves up and rally back a little in the end, it was not enough to overcome Ridgeline.
Ridgeline junior Julia Howe was a major presence on the net, with huge blocks and powerful swings. Alongside fellow blockers, Howe caused many issues for the Desert Hills hitters.
“It’s crazy, Coach Jaicee says you’re this close and you can achieve it. At the beginning of the game, you have three roadblocks for achieving a game, (which are) three sets, and it’s just awesome we achieved it. Most of our team are seniors this year and it’s so hard to leave them because we’re all so close. But this was awesome and a fun experience,” said Howe.
This championship was Ridgeline’s to win, despite the seeding saying otherwise. On its way to a 4A title, Ridgeline only lost one set in postseason play.