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High school volleyball MVPs exemplified what it means to play at a championship level

Each player played at a championship level and made their team and school better, both on and off the court

This year’s volleyball MVPs are, from left, Pleasant Grove’s Abbie Miller (6A), Farmington’s Hannah Howard (5A), Green Canyon’s Shante Falslev (4A), Union’s Ellison Weaver (3A), Enterprise’s Sofie Shurtliff (2A) and Panguitch’s Kiesa Miller (1A).
Deseret News and courtesy photos

SALT LAKE CITY — Each of the six Deseret News classification MVPs exemplified what it meant to be a great volleyball player. Each player played at a championship level and made their team and school better, both on and off the court.

6A MVP

Abbie Miller, Pleasant Grove

Pleasant Grove setter Abbie Miller (15) sets the ball during the 6A high school state finals match at the UCCU Center on the Utah Valley University campus in Orem on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019.
Colter Peterson, Deseret News

Senior setter Abbie Miller was instrumental in leading Pleasant Grove to the 6A championship this year. The senior setter totaled 980 assists, 148 digs, 53 kills, 48 aces and 39 blocks throughout the season. In the championship win over Copper Hills, Miller had 51 assists.

“Abbie was such a valuable setter on the court because she could take an out-of-system pass and turn it into an in-system pass with her quickness and incredibly soft hands. Balls that you would think most setters would double, Abbie would come out clean and jack it forward or back,” Pleasant Grove head coach Allyce Jones said.

As business-like as Miller is on the court, she has fun with her teammates off it.

“Off the court, Abbie is one of a kind. She has that spunky, fun attitude that attracts everyone around her. She is always having fun and usually dancing,” Jones said.

Jones’ favorite moment watching Miller this year came in a 3-0 victory over Bishop Gorman. She had 29 assists in that match.

“She played at an incredible high level and energy that made me excited to watch her play Division I next year. Another favorite moment was watching her in the state finals. After getting beat the first set by Copper Hills, she settled down and led her team to three straight set wins, running a beautiful offense,” Jones said.

Miller will certainly leave a legacy to be remembered at Pleasant Grove.

“Abbie will leave high school volleyball as the 6A MVP, Region 4 MVP, All-Valley Setter of the Year, and a state champion. Despite all of her accolades, her ability to lead our team through her hard work, her positive attitude and her ability to uplift those around her is what I will remember the most about her,” Jones said.

5A MVP

Hannah Howard, Farmington

Farmington High School and Corner Canyon High School face off in a volleyball match at Corner Canyon High School in Draper on Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019. Farmington won in three straight sets.
Colter Peterson, Deseret News

Hannah Howard was a big reason why Farmington, a school that opened in 2018, was able to get all the way to the 5A volleyball championships this season.

“Hannah has a killer instinct. She has a rocket arm and can just hammer the ball. I know when she would go up to swing on a ball, you’d catch some team back on their heels because they didn’t know how fast that ball was going to be coming at them,” Farmington head coach April Painter said. “It was a huge threat for the other team whenever she got set, because she was also very mobile and we could run around different sets around the net. We were moving her around quite a bit and she would just take care of the ball.”

The senior outside hitter finished the season with a .332 hitting percentage and 348 kills. Off the court, Howard is quiet, but her personality shines through when she is on the court.

“Hannah is very humble. She’s always positive and happy. You never hear her speaking up too much; she’s reserved, but she loves the game and you can see her passion for it. When she gets on the court to play, you can see her personality come out in how she has an aggressive, tenacious style of play where she’s going to compete for the win,” Painter said.

Painter’s favorite moment of Howard’s season came when Howard played on the road at her former school, Bountiful. Farmington prevailed in a tough five-set match and Howard led the team in kills with 23. She also boasted a .377 hit percentage.

“She played there her sophomore year. She had friends there and they know her, and it was just a really healthy rivalry that we had. She was excited to play in her gym and she played amazingly. It was a tight, five-game match and she led the team,” Painter said. “She was great in keeping her composure, because the crowd knew her and they were yelling at her specifically and she didn’t let it affect her,” Painter said.

Howard helped to build Farmington’s new volleyball program and elevate it to a high standard.

“I’m grateful that she came to Farmington High to help us build our program. She came to Farmington to help us build our program and was such a huge player to help us create a culture where we expect a certain level of play. I’m just grateful that she had the faith and courage to go with us, with a brand-new school. She’s left a legacy here that won’t be forgotten any time soon,” Painter said.

4A MVP

Shante Falslev, Green Canyon

Green Canyon’s Shante Falslev blocks a shot during the 4A championship volleyball match between Green Canyon and Desert Hills at Utah Valley University in Orem on Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2019. Union won in the fifth set 19-17.
Steve Griffin, Deseret News

Shante Falslev led Green Canyon to its first-ever 4A title with a fantastic season. The senior outside hitter racked up 271 kills, 52 aces and 243 digs over her championship-winning year.

“I think what’s super valuable about Shante is just her attitude. She is a go get ‘em player and she always wants the ball to come to her, no matter what situation she’s in. She’s a super competitive player, which is super fun to see. She is just all around a good volleyball player for us this season. She led us in kills, she led us in aces and I think she is second or third on the team in digs. All around, she was a threat for us and that was a fun thing to see from her,” Green Canyon head coach Madison Larsen said.

Falslev has a magnetic personality on and off the court.

“Off the court, she’s a really fun kid. She is very competitive, so she makes jokes with her teammates, competing in all the drills and everything. She wants to be the very best that she can be at everything that she’s doing. More importantly than that, she’s a really good teammate and she’s a good friend. Her teammates really are drawn to her, and as coaches we’re drawn to her as well, because you can see her passion for the game and as well, the passion for the team and what she’s a part of,” Larsen said.

A moment of toughness in a match illustrated why Falslev is this year’s 4A MVP.

“She got hit in the eye somehow by a teammate or the ball and we have a pretty funny picture of her just picking her contact up off the floor and sticking it straight back in her eye because she wasn’t going to get taken out of the game. She needed to stick her contact back in her eye so that she could go play. Obviously, super dirty, but that’s the type of kid that she is. She’s business and she was ready to go back and play,” Larsen said.

3A MVP

Ellison Weaver, Union

Union’s Ellison Weaver celebrates as the Cougars win the second set during the 3A championship volleyball match against Morgan at Utah Valley University in Orem on Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2019. Union won the championship in five sets.
Steve Griffin, Deseret News

Ellison Weaver was dominant all season for Union as it won the 3A state title. The senior outside hitter had a .279 hitting percentage, 451 kills, 25 blocks and 252 digs.

“She has this confidence about her that can’t be taught, and with that confidence she was able to be a great leader. She never used her ability to act like she was better than anyone. She is uplifting and holds her teammates to high standards,” Union head coach Analaine Mailoto said.

Weaver was instrumental in setting the culture for the year.

“Ellison has a fun personality and loves to dance with her teammates and have good times. She also helped to create a culture in our program and would do a team meeting before games and would have thoughts or strategies. The other girls also took turns in giving thoughts. Ellison came up with our theme for this year, and it was ‘legacy.’ Our goal was to leave a legacy for people in the future to look back on and see what we left behind. She is an amazing young lady and will do great things in her life,” Mailoto said.

In the state championship, Weaver’s dominance was on full display in the five-set match, where she had an outstanding 36 kills.

“One is obviously her performance in state. She played so well. Another was in practice during a drill we were doing. They had a goal to get to and if they made an error they had to move off the court and the last ones on the court were able to complete their goal. Ellison stayed on for 25 straight rallies and you could just see her focus and her mental strength grow. I thought it was cool so see how strong she became this year,” Mailoto said.

Weaver was like a coach on the floor for Union this season and is deserving of the 3A MVP.

“We love Ellison and everything she brought to our program. I feel like her and I worked really well together this year and she helped me lots of ways. She would scout a team and have reports on them and she would watch us and have reports on us so it was another set of eyes helping us at a different perspective. We had a coaching perspective and a player perspective, and that was so beneficial,” Mailoto said.

2A MVP

Sofie Shurtliff, Enterprise

Enterprise 2A MVP Sofie Shurtliff
Courtesy Enterprise High School

Sofie Shurtliff led Enterprise to the 2A championship with 209 kills, 63 blocks, 258 digs and 30 aces on the season. Shurtliff’s was the emotional leader of the team, along with being the 2A MVP.

“One of the things that I really liked about Sofie is that she had a contagious excitement, not just for herself but especially for her teammates. When they had a kill or a great dig, she was the first to show emotion. She was an emotional leader for us,” Enterprise head coach Brian Phelps said.

Shurtliff led by example this year.

“She’s not loud; she’s quiet, but she exuberates energy and more of an excitement, cheery attitude. Not critical at all, not a loud leader, but just a good energy leader,” Phelps said.

Shurtliff was important for Enterpise, which replaced every single position this year.

“We graduated everybody out but one, and the other starter moved, so she went from not playing any varsity volleyball clear to MVP in one year. The first year, she was a solid player, but by the time she got done, she was probably the best,” Phelps said.

Shurtliff showed her mettle in the state championship with a string of impressive performances. In the five-set championship game against North Summit, Shurtliff had 20 kills to lead Enterprise to the title.

“In the state tournament, we had three tough matches. She had 20 kills, 21 kills and 21 kills. That’s about as consistent as you can be. She had to play back row, she dug, she passed — she was one of our three passers. She is a complete, all-the-way-around player,” Phelps said.

1A MVP

Kiesa Miller, Panguitch

Panguitch’s Kiesa Miller is the Deseret News 1A MVP

Kiesa Miller was a force for Panguitch’s championship-winning team. The senior middle blocker totaled 344 kills, .349 hitting percentage, 114 blocks and 55 aces throughout the season.

“One of the main things is she’s just so dynamic, such a good athlete. She’s a phenomenal blocker and a phenomenal hitter. She ended up fifth in the whole state in hitting percentage and third in the whole state for blocks,” Panguitch head coach Troy Norris said.

Along with being a great player on the court, Miller also helped lead the team and bring them closer together.

“She was one of our captains. I felt like we had a team this year that got along exceptionally well. They were all just really close. She was a big part of that. She was always encouraging the girls and always telling them ‘good job’ and was always very positive with them. She really helped in that aspect as far as making the team a close-knit group,” Norris said.

Miller was instrumental in Panguitch’s 3-0 championship victory over Milford. Miller had 14 kills with a .429 hitting percentage along with two aces.

Miller is also successful, taking state in the discus and excelling in girls’ basketball.

“She’s a three-sport athlete. She’s just a really good all-around athlete. She took state in the discus and track and field; she’s one of the top basketball players as well,” Norris said.