by Scott Boyle
It’s November, the fall weather turns frosty, tangerine, topaz, and tomato-colored leaves fall, Monticello plays for another volleyball state championship, football fans bundle up. That’s a lot to handle emotionally. But we press on.
The Lady Buckaroos, dressed in their best Halloween colors, orange and black, brought home the second place trophy in their quest for another to state volleyball championship in the 1A state volleyball tournament Friday and Saturday at UVU.
The Ladies played superbly, losing only one set on their way to a championship match-up with defending champion Panguitch. It was not to be this year, as the Bucks fell to the Bobcats in straight games, 25-18, 25-14, 25-17, only the Bucks fifth loss of the season, ending a 17 match winning streak in the process.
“We had a great season,” reveled head coach Tony Esplin. “This is probably one of the best groups I’ve ever coached.”
It just wasn’t to be in the finals against an experienced Bobcat squad, who have won 11 state championships in the last four years in cross country, track, basketball and volleyball.
The Buckaroos started well in the championship matchup, matching Panguitch kill for kill, block for block and were actually leading 18-16 in the first game, but a critical late call gave the ball and a point to Panguitch after LaShay Lewis had pounded down a sequence at the net. After that, the wheels came off for the Bucks.
Instead of leading 19-16 and serving, they watched Panguitch reel off nine straight points, mostly thanks to some powerful serving that kept the Bucks off-balanced to win the first set.
The second set was similar to the first, Monticello taking a lead at 5-4 before Panguitch used their service and block game to take 10 of the next 12 points to win 25-14. The third set was all Panguitch as the Bucks passing game couldn’t keep ahead of the Panguitch block, 25-17.
The Ladies journey to the title game started with a first round matchup versus Region 20’s always tough, though 9-13 this year, Piute Thunderbirds.
The Thunderbirds had the tourney opening jitters already worked out after winning a play-in match with Dugway and tested the Bucks in the first game. But the Bucks got over the nerves and ecked out a 25-23 win.
The Lady Bucks found their rhythm in the second game, taking an early 11-9 lead that they pushed to 18-9 with seven straight points, on the way to a 25-18 win to go up 2-1.
In the third, it was all Buckarooooooos, right from the very first point on a sizzling Isabel Slade kill. Suddenly, with that Slade jumpstart, MHS blazed to a quick 12-3 lead and kept the hammer down. Final score was 25-8 and the Bucks were in the quarterfinals against a tough, fourth ranked and determined Milford Tiger team.
The Bucks left a good 16-3 Tigers team with a 16-4 record, however, after blasting Milford in straight games, 25-18, 25-19, 25-19, their 16th win in a row, sending the Lady Bucks into the semifinals for the second year in a row, this time against the third ranked 20-3 Duchesne Eagles on Saturday.
Playing their best match of the tournament, the Bucks walloped the Eagles 3-1, taking the first two sets 25-11 and 25-22. Duchesne rallied to win the third set, 25-23 to give the Buckaroos their first lost set since way back on September 22, but the Bucks regrouped to dominate in the fourth set, 25-16.
Averi Christensen, Atlanta Black and Izabel Slade all had double figure kills against the Eagles, setting up the finals contest with Panguitch.
It was the last game in Buckaroo orange and black for seniors LaShay Lewis, Ashley Ewert, Kari Schmidt, Molly Anderson and Averi Christensen, but the 22-5 Buckaroos are optimistic about next year, having gone from fith place in 2013, to third place last year and second this year, next year, it’s all about the gold trophy.
Congratulations on a domineering season, Lady Buckaroos, one to remember.