RICHFIELD — For the North Summit High School volleyball team, winning the 2A state championship came down to players keeping their composure and competing for their team family.
The Braves defeated Millard in a 3-0 bout Friday evening to secure their second state title in three years.
The championship came after months of hard work and earning the top seed in the tournament.
“I said every other team has nothing to lose when they play us,” said coach Samantha Stephens. “We have to come out and take it one game at a time. That’s what they did. They came out and did what they had to do.”
Millard nearly delivered an upset during the first set. The Eagles took an early lead and remained consistently one or two points ahead. Millard’s Eliza Swallow came up with a big kill that set the Eagles up with a 24-21 lead and game point.
“I just told them to battle,” Stephens said. “A lot in the first game determines what happens in the others.”
After a timeout, she sent her girls back into the skirmish, and Marci Richins, a junior, pounded down the first kill in what would stretch out to a five-point jaunt that ended with North Summit earning the first set win 26-24.
In the second set, North Summit found its rhythm and chipped away at the Eagles, outlasting a late six-point run by Millard to take a 25-21 win.
In the final set, North Summit got up early and stayed ahead to cement a 25-14 win and the state title.
“It’s been an amazing year,” Stephens said. “They’ve all picked up at different times.”
Leading the way for the Braves was Richins, who covered the middle of the net, knocking down important kills and blocks throughout the tournament.
“She’s done a great job for us,” Stephens said.
Hadley Richins also was a force on the court, diving and making saves that kept the Braves afloat at key times.
“It was all heart and grit,” she said. She said her team’s ability to block has set her up for success all year.
“We lost five seniors last year,” Hadley said. “Some thought we wouldn’t be that good, but we proved them wrong.”
Senior Madison Ferry also play a key role in the team’s success this year.
“We started out a little slow, but by the end we gave it our all and played as a team,” Ferry said. “That’s what I love is we play like a family. Each one of them gives their all every single time.”
Junior Savannah Richins helped in the hunt for the title as well, knocking more than a few kills down herself.
“It’s been a blast for sure,” she said. “We sure wanted it, and why not, right? We just knew that we needed to play together as a family. It’s been super special. We’re like siblings.”
Senior Taylor Otterness, the Braves’ libero and academic all-state recipient, echoed the theme of family when it came to how North Summit played this season.
“Everyone worked so hard. We play together as a family. That’s what brought us together in the end,” she said.
Otterness said the victory was especially sweet after losing the state championship in 2019.
“Coming back and winning my senior year was probably the best feeling ever,” she said.