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High school volleyball: Copper Hills advances to second straight 6A championship with thrilling semifinal win, will meet Lone Peak in final

Lone Peak’s Grace Evans, left, and teammates celebrate after beating Fremont in a 6A volleyball state semifinals game at Hillcrest High School in Midvale on Friday, Nov. 6, 2020.
Lone Peak’s Grace Evans, left, and teammates celebrate after beating Fremont in a 6A volleyball state semifinals game at Hillcrest High School in Midvale on Friday, Nov. 6, 2020.
Deseret News, Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

MIDVALE — It is hard to imagine there could be a more exciting sports environment than Copper Hills’ thrilling five-set semifinal win over Pleasant Grove at Hillcrest High School.

However, if its title matchup against Lone Peak, which defeated Fremont in its own semifinal, is anything like the semifinal matches, the teams and crowd may just bring the house down.

In what promises to be an exciting match, the top-seeded Lone Peak Knights and third-seeded Copper Hills Grizzlies will square off for the 6A volleyball championship Saturday at 10 a.m. at Hillcrest.

For Copper Hills, Saturday’s match will be a shot at redemption. Last year, as the top seed in 6A, the Grizzlies fell to Pleasant Grove in the title game.

Even though the biggest game of the year and a chance at a state title still lies ahead, to the Grizzlies and their highly energetic crowd, Friday’s big comeback win over last year’s title foe was an important and emotional moment.

The win was extremely meaningful for the Copper Hills team and community because of the recent history between them and Pleasant Grove. In addition to winning last year’s title match, Pleasant Grove handed Copper Hills its only loss of this season, further upping the excitement of victory over an opponent that is becoming a sort of rival.

“They’ve always been a tough team for us, and we’ve been on the edge thinking, ‘Can we beat this team?’” Copper Hills head coach Silver Fonua said. “To beat Pleasant Grove is monumental.”

Though Pleasant Grove dominated early on, winning the first two sets 25-12 and 25-14, Copper Hills was not ready to go home without a fight. With the energy in the gym near its peak, the Grizzlies narrowly won the third set 26-24 and seemed in control as they won the fourth set 25-22 with all the momentum on their side.

The fifth set, however, was where the Grizzlies truly showed their heart and determination. As Pleasant Grove stormed out to a 12-7 lead in the fifth set, it seemed like the Vikings had regained the momentum and would take the match. Copper Hills was not done, though, winning seven straight points and ultimately winning the set 16-14, making the fifth set a sort of microcosm for the entire match.

Even though it was their first five-set match of the year, Fonua and the Grizzlies knew they could perform in tough situations.

“We were just staying in the moment and thinking about one thing at a time,” Fonua explained. “I just knew we could pull that off if we were given that moment.”

Senior captain Teniyah Leuluai agreed with her coach and added that their good attitude helped them get the win.

“When we have fun and play simple, everything falls in place and that definitely showed on the court today,” she said.

Leuluai also praised the raucous crowd behind her and her teammates, which she said was energizing.

“When you hear them cheering for you and for your teammates, it encourages everyone to play better and to play for them, yourself and your teammates,” Leuluai said.

For Lone Peak, Saturday’s match will be an opportunity to once again be atop 6A volleyball after its three-peat from 2016-2018. In 2019, Copper Hills happened to be the team that bounced Lone Peak in the semifinals, so the title match will be what Lone Peak head coach Reed Carlson hopes is a “fun battle.”

“It’s very poetic because we were on that side of the bracket last year. We were like Pleasant Grove last year, having to face (Copper Hills) in that unfortunate semifinal,” Carlson said. “We have some gratitude for the opportunity to play the team that knocked us out last year in the finals.”

In its semifinal match, Lone Peak looked poised, with the exception of the second set. After eking out the first set 26-24, the Knights seemed out of sorts in the second set and fell to Silverwolves 25-14. However, with a few adjustments, Lone Peak stormed back to win the next two sets 25-20 and 25-16.

The Knights were led by their stellar front line, including Lauren Jardine, Annie Taylor and Emeline Hudson, who combined for 40 kills. Libero Grace Evans was also solid, racking up 26 digs in the win.