The 2020 high school volleyball season was far from perfect, with many cancellations as a variety of teams endured 14-day quarantines because of COVID-19. In the end though, a commitment from the players and coaches to end the season strong finally paid off with all six classifications finishing the season as scheduled.
Here’s a look the 2020 Deseret News volleyball MVPs who made the biggest difference in leading their teams to great success amid the turmoil in 2020.
Asiah Sopoaga, Copper Hills, Sr., OH
Over the past four years Asiah Sopoaga helped raise Copper Hills to an elite level in 6A, and even though the program came up narrowly short of its end goal in 2020, Sopoaga was consistently one of the most dynamic and entertaining players to watch in 6A.
“Statistically this season, Asiah had great numbers and broke many school records. She does all this within the team’s system and as a result we dominated many games and our team advanced deep into the playoffs,” said Copper Hills coach Silver Fonua.
The Idaho State signee finished with 333 kills, a .254 hitting percentage, 335 digs, 59 aces and was named to the AVCA all-region team.
For her career she finished with 1,200 points, 1,100 digs and most important to Fonua, over 1,100 serve/receives with just 62 errors.
“The byproduct of this, her teammates got better and Copper Hills became one of the elite volleyball programs in the State,” said Fonua.
Silina Damuni, Timpview, So., S
Just a sophomore, Silina Damuni delivered for her team all season leading the T-Birds to a 22-6 record, but most importantly a 5-0 record in the playoffs capped by a state championship.
In the thrilling five-set title game win over region foe Mountain View, Damuni was sensational with 44 assists and 16 digs.
“Silina has always been an extremely competitive athlete. She expects nothing but the best from her and her teammates every day. She is an amazing setter, the best all-around player, and has one of the best serves in the state,” said Timpview coach Charmay Lee. “I’ve coached her for the last four years and she’s exceeded all my expectations.”
Damuni, who was a Deseret News first team all-stater last year as a freshman, finished her sophomore season with 868 assists, 69 aces, 60 blocks and 211 digs.
Haley McUne, Sky View, Sr., OH
When Haley McUne first arrived at Sky View as a sophomore, her coach Sheila Sorensen asked her to fill a need by switching from libero to outside hitter. She did so without hesitation or fear, and she’s spent the past four years crushing the ball and leading Sky View to great heights.
This season the Utah State signee finished with 383 kills, a .288 hitting percentage, 425 digs and 87 aces in leading the Bobcats to the 4A state title.
“Haley McUne is a great all-around player. She loves to be playing, practicing and watching volleyball. She reads the court and players better than anyone I’ve coached. When she is hitting she can see the open spot to get the kill, when she is on defense she seems to be a step ahead of the dig. She brings a spark of excitement and competitiveness to whatever drill or match we are playing,” said Sorensen.
As a sophomore, McUne was named 4A honorable mention after teaming with her senior sister Ashlee McUne to win the 4A state title. Last year she was named a first-teamer.
“She is just so fun to watch and coach. She will do great things as she continues her volleyball career at Utah State,” said Sorensen.
Kenisten Weaver, Union, Jr., S
A first team all-stater last year, Kenisten Weaver took her game to another level during her junior season in leading the Cougars to back-to-back 3A state championships.
“Kenisten is very determined to be the best setter she is capable of being. She has been working extremely hard to be a great leader and working on knowing her teammates and how she can be for them,” said Union coach Analaine Mailoto. “She is always trying to make changes throughout her practice to make good decisions or fixing hand positions or foot work to be able to make the right set for her team.”
The setter finished the season with 876 assists, roughly nine assists per set, 195 digs and 84 kills.
In a four-set win over Morgan in the championship, she racked up 48 assists with three blocks. Earlier in the day in a five-set semifinal win over South Summit she totaled 47 assists.
“She loves volleyball and she is very competitive and brings a confidence to our team that help to push us to be better,” said Mailoto.
Marci Richins, North Summit, Jr., MB
It’s only a figure of speech, but the phrase “jump out of a gym” was coined for players like North Summit junior Marci Richins. Her leaping ability made her a dominant force at the net this season as she was instrumental in leading her team to the 2A state title.
“Marci is an amazing athlete and fun to watch. She can jump out of the gym and is a wall at the net blocking. She is a competitor and wants to win and does what it takes to make that happen. She wants to be her best and works hard every day to get better. Marci is easy to coach and a great teammate and team player,” said North Summit coach Samantha Stephens.
Richins, who stands at 5-foot-9, finished the season with 510 kills, a .399 hitting percentage, 149 blocks, 264 digs and 45 aces.
In the championship sweep of Millard she finished with 17 kills and a .483 hitting percentage.
Esther Cox, Valley, Sr., L
Valley made an 11-win improvement from 2019 to 2020 and finished as 1A state champs, and a big reason why was the unselfishness of senior Esther Cox.
“After careful analysis of our team, post 2019 season, I asked Esther if she could trade the spotlight and glory of an outside hitter, for one of the most underappreciated, absolutely essential, jobs in volleyball, the libero. Esther told me she’d play wherever she was most needed to give her team the best chance of reaching its potential. She did, and they did. How I appreciate her putting the good of the team first. So many life lessons to be learned in that,” coach Harmony Cox said.
Esther Cox finished with the season with 825 digs, a dig percentage of 87 percent, 572 receptions, 75 aces and 38 assists.
“She has worked hard to be able to read hitters. She is a great leader, offering information her teammates need and keeps her team focused within the fun they need. She is always improving her skills,” said assistant coach Deanna Reeve.