It was a five-set battle, but when the final ball bounced, Rich had captured the 1A state volleyball title Saturday night at the Sevier Valley Center in Richfield.
“I think that’s the hardest game we’ve ever played in our entire lives,” said Wendy Lamborn, head coach of the Rich Lady Rebels. “They deserve it. They are such a great team and have worked so hard together through a lot of ups and downs.”
The match started with Rich winning the first set 25-23. The Lady Rebels then appeared to settle in as they led most of the way in the second set, taking the win in that one 25-20.
Panguitch was not going to let it be easy, winning the next two 25-17 and 25-14.
“Panguitch is a great team,” Lamborn said. “They blocked us a lot better than we expected, but we stepped up to the plate finally.”
In the final game of the match, Rich’s girls were able to overcome an early Parowan edge to cement the win and their place as state champions 15-13.
“They deserve it. They are such a great team and have worked so hard together through a lot of ups and downs.” — Rich head coach Wendy Lamborn
“Earlier in the season we played a team that was a big-time rival of ours, and we got down two games to none,” Lamborn said. “I think that game turned it around for us. To know that it doesn’t matter, you can come back and win.”
Throughout the year, Rich’s girls were focused on what they called, “the process.”
“The process was to get all the way to state,” said junior Aeva Ellsworth. “That means coming together as a team, working through all our problems and trusting each other.”
In the end, Ellsworth said the process paid off.
“This means everything,” Ellsworth said of hoisting the state championship trophy overhead. “We had to keep our attitudes up through everything this year.”
“I can’t even describe how I’m feeling right now,” said junior Kasey Wilson, who said she’s been playing the game since the fourth grade. “Our coaches and team have worked their butts off to win this state title. I’m so thankful for the coaches who have pushed us.”
Finding a way to believe in themselves was important, especially headed into the final set, according to junior Hannah Scott
“We came into this and we weren’t going to let it go,” Scott said.
Outside hitter Darlene Peterson, senior, was a key component to the season’s success, with over 330 kills.
“It took a lot for us to play as one,” Peterson said. “We’re closer than ever and I think that’s why we won.”
Peterson said it’s not focusing on how the game ends that’s important, but how to get to the end of it that matters. She said the team set incremental goals during each set, score five, then 10, then 15. “That helped us with the process of winning each game.”
When faced with the possibility of losing the final game of the year, Peterson said the team kept a positive affirmation going — “we can do it.”
This is Rich’s 18th volleyball title and first since 2016.