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High school volleyball: Lone Peak back on top of 6A after slipping past gritty Copper Hills in title game

Lone Peak celebrates its win over Copper Hills in the 6A volleyball championship match at Hillcrest High School in Midvale on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020.
Lone Peak celebrates its win over Copper Hills in the 6A volleyball championship match at Hillcrest High School in Midvale on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020.
Deseret News, Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

MIDVALE — Lone Peak is back on top of the volleyball world after defeating Copper Hills 3-1 (25-18, 20-25, 25-18, 25-23) in the 6A volleyball championship Saturday at Hillcrest High School.

It was a bit of revenge against the Grizzlies, who knocked the Knights out of the playoffs last season to end a run of three straight Lone Peak titles.

Lone Peak utilized its height and middle game to grab the first set 25-18. The Knights were able to make adjustments in the air and able to get their blocking game going to throw off Copper Hills’ rhythm in the opening effort.

“The heart and soul of our offense is the speed of our middles and them putting pressure on the other team,” said Lone Peak coach Reed Carlson. “Those guys (Copper Hills) are so good defensively that I think we ran it fast enough to give them some trouble in the middle— beautiful execution. This was the match that we needed it to be right and it was right.”

KJ Burgess, who Carlson dubbed the “biggest cat in the jungle” for her dominant mental and physical game, led the way and put Lone Peak up 7-6 off a strong block. Lone Peak never trailed after that, continuing to frazzle the Copper Hills passing game and extending its lead to 12-8 after back-to-back hitting errors by the Grizzlies.

But as expected with championship battles, the Grizzlies made adjustments. Copper Hills swung around and over the towering Knights, never trailing before winning 25-20 in the second set. Priscilla (Baby) Moleni was key for the Grizzlies, recording a kill before an ace to put Copper Hills up 14-8 at one point.

Tied 1-1, Burgess admitted Lone Peak knew winning wasn’t going to come easy against a great opponent and that made the battle to win even more amazing.

“We know we have to earn every point, they aren’t going to let us just get any points,” said Burgess. “We know we have to be aggressive and swing at the ball and be smart as well.”

Aggressive was the theme in the third set as Lone Peak reeled off six straight points early to go up 6-1, before building its biggest lead at 15-4. Middle blocker Kinley Swan led the charge with her hitting and block attack, while the Knights’ serving game continued to keep the Grizzlies on their toes.

  • Watch replay: Lone Peak 3, Copper Hills 1

But again, Copper Hills didn’t quit and cut the margin to 19-16 off a kill by Asiah Sopoaga. From there, Swan and Lauren Jardine pushed a strong charge to wrap the game up at 25-18. Jardine, who has signed with Wisconsin, was dominant in the set and the match, recording 17 kills.

The two teams put on a show in the fourth set, battling to the end. Copper Hills tied things up at 16-16 before Burgess and Jardine combined for a block and then Jardine threw a strong serve that the Grizzlies couldn’t handle to give Lone Peak an 18-16 lead. Copper Hills tied things up again at 22-22 before Annie Taylor cranked back-to-back kills en route to the 25-23 win and celebration.

“The whole year we tried not to put any focus on us, we wanted to focus on the work. We talked about that every day — it’s just work, it’s just work. We felt confident in doing our jobs and doing the work, and doing it together,” said Carlson. “We talked this morning that this is the last time this team gets to play together, so why not win a state championship doing it.”