The Union Cougars cemented a stellar season as they defeated Morgan in the 3A state volleyball championship Wednesday evening in Richfield.
The 3-1 victory cemented Union’s back-to-back championship bid, as the Cougars also won in 2019.
“This has been a really good team to coach,” said coach Analaine Mailoto. “This group of girls is amazing, no matter if we win or lose, I don’t have to worry about them being catty to each other. They love each other and want to play for each other.”
Mailoto said the Cougar’s squad’s sense of togetherness helped carry them through a 10-0 region season, as well as the challenges of the state tournament.
“When you play at state it’s competitive and it’s hard,” Mailoto said.
The championship was the first meeting between Union and Morgan this year, and the Trojans had some surprises in store for the Cougars.
In the first set, Morgan was able to take a 25-20 win, riding a couple of rallies with junior Alex Trussell and senior Hadley Charlton serving.
“Our girls responded well to the adjusting,” Mailoto said. “I kept telling them be disciplined, be disciplined all the time.”
It paid off.
The second set saw the Cougars claw their way back from an early 14-7 deficit. Union’s Graycee Birchell, a senior, came up with some key kills to turn the tide of the set, which ended with Union up 28-26.
Union’s girls set the tone early in the third set, opening with a 3-0 run.
They were able to close the set with a 25-16 win. Union’s Kinsley Drake, a junior, drove down several key kills to keep the momentum.
In the final set, Union established the lead early, but Morgan’s girls kept rallying and closing the gap. Heading into the final plays of the set, Union was only up by one point. However, a four-point jaunt closed the game, with Trinity Duncan slamming down the final shot of the game.
“We earned every second of that game,” Duncan said. “We always practice passing and serving … That’s the one thing we had to look at today.”
Duncan said Morgan’s team didn’t make the final bout easy.
“We knew what we were coming up against and we practiced and practiced for it,” Duncan said. “
Duncan is one of two starting seniors on the team.
“I wish the best for my team, they’re my family,” Duncan said. “I wish I could be here longer for them, but I can’t.”
Another senior on the team, Birchell, said she’ll also miss her being on the court with her team.
“Morgan brought it hard,” Birchell said. “But we’re a really tight knit team.”