Girls’ Volleyball Take State!

Sydney LaPine and Clara Hopkins

Inside the gym of Utah Valley University, the Park City’s girl’s team is fighting for the 4A High School Volleyball State Championship. The points have been neck-and-neck since the first serve. Watching from the stands, every intake of breath from the crowd is audible as the ball pivots back and forth across the net. Park City is leading the final set 24-21. Tensions are high as the ball sails towards the Sky View side. Sky View players make one last ditch effort to save the ball from touching their side of the court. The ball slams down on the floor, and the crowd erupts in cheers. The Park City girls, letting out cries of joy, run to each other and heap into a massive dogpile. The Park City Miners have won their first ever Volleyball State Championship.

 

The game was a tough one for Park City.

 

It was 8-8, back and forth and back and forth,” said head coach Matthew Carlson. “We were playing phenomenal defense and running the offense beautifully.” The score came dangerously close for all three sets.

 

“We didn’t beg or hope for points, we did our job on the court and took them,” remarked sophomore Isabelle Sandston. Carlson gives credit for their win this year to “Park City’s culture,” which sets high standards for next year’s team.  

 

There were a few other factors that also influenced the state title for Park City. “On winning teams, everything sort of aligns. Athletes, coaches and parents buy in, athletes come to work in practice, [and the girls showed] great leadership,” explained Carlson.

 

But he also made sure not to overwork the girls. After weeks of hard training, the coaches gave the girls a rest period to recharge before the championship game. Sandston, the only sophomore to play solely on Varsity, thinks the coaches deserve the credit for the win. However, Carlson “refuses to take a shred of credit for [the] victory,” she states.

 

One of the players that stood out among the Miners was junior Grace Wiczek. Wiczek has been playing volleyball since seventh grade, and has been on Varsity since her Freshman year. When the high school season ends, she commutes down to Salt Lake City to play club volleyball. “I just love the sport,” she says with a wide grin.  

 

She speaks highly of her High School coach, Coach Carlson, “I’m thankful for the time he spent to develop me as a player. And teaching all these life lessons that are so important when you’re in a sport, and as a student athlete.”

 

Wiczek finished with nineteen kills at the end of the game, while Sky View’s most kills per player was thirteen.

 

However, it wasn’t solely about the victory. The Miner’s team spirit radiated throughout the entire season and especially during that final game.

 

“Just everything leading up to that moment when we won state, that was the special part,” Wiczek explains. The team has been putting in the hard work since August, when their season started. During the first quarter of school, you could always find the girls in the gym practicing, starting at 3:30 and finishing a couple hours later.

 

Most girls arrived early to set up nets and warm up before the coaches arrived. “It was an expectation that we made very clear throughout the whole season,” Wiczek remarks. After warm-up, the girls focused on skills but they always ended practice competing. During the season, they need to be in that competitive mindset to be prepared for the games to come.   

 

Sandston reflected this commitment in her memory of the team’s first practice. “We ran PC Hill as a program. And when we reached the top, we had a discussion about who exactly we are and what values we hold,” she explains, “I think that is an amazing representation of our program.”

 

The team’s practices don’t reflect a “typical” volleyball practice. “We get together at the beginning of practice and do something different each day.” Carlson informed. “One day we had a dance off, another day we do a motivational talk, meet in the lecture hall and do a life lesson, or even just play a random game.”

 

While practices included fun activities, discipline was crucial to the team and extended beyond the court. A diet that removed sugar from the player’s eating habits was also apart of the girls’ training.

 

“More than it being a diet, it’s showing your discipline and devotion to the team,” Wiczek states. “Just something everyday to show, like, ‘Hey, I’m committed to doing this,’ to go win state.”

 

Not only did the practices help them win, but they made them a tight-knit family group too. “I love all of them. It sounds cheesy, but they are family,” Wiczek says. “And that’s what made the championship so great. To win that with a group of people that you care so much about and have been through so much with.”

 

The Park City Miners worked hard over the past season, and they’ve finally earned their reward. The Varsity Volleyball team is about more than just volleyball. It’s about working hard, keeping your goals in focus, and teaching students to follow their own path in life. Sandston praised, “[The coaches] taught us as much about life as they did about volleyball.”

 

CLASS 4A STATE TOURNAMENT

Semifinals

Park City def. Desert Hills 20-25, 25-13, 25-22, 25-20

Sky View def. Snow Canyon 25-13, 25-18, 27-25

 

State championship

Park City def. Sky View 25-23, 25-21, 25-21