The Monticello Buckaroo volleyball season ended the year with a win, just like they planned, but it was for third place instead of the state championship.
The Lady Bucks beat the Duchesne Eagles in four sets to claim third place just one day after getting upset by a red-hot Rich Rebel team, 3-0.
Rich went on to capture the 1A state championship in four sets over three time defending champ, Panguitch. It was the Rebels’ first state championship since 2007.
The 1A tournament started well for the motivated Buckaroos, as they cruised past the Tabiona Tigers, 3-0. The Bucks took the first two sets by 25-11 scores, as they were firing on all cylinders, hitting, blocking, passing.
They moved to the quarterfinals when they crushed the Lady Tigers 25-15 in the third set to sweep.
A trip to the semis was ensured when coach Tony Esplin’s splendid bunch dismantled a fine Milford Tiger team in three straight as well. Monticello took the first set 25-18, and then put the Tigers away in the second and third sets by the identical score of 25-12 in both sets.
In the semis, however, the Bucks, whose sight the whole season has been to get the state title, ran into a team on a roll, the Rich Rebels.
The Rebels, owners of 16 1A state volleyball titles, had similarly cruised through their bracket, beating Valley 3-0 and a tough St. Joseph team, 3-1.
The first set was a barn burner, with both teams fighting for control of the game. When Rich gained a 24-22 lead, it looked like they would take the set, but the Buckaroos fought back.
When Isabell Slade slammed two kills and the Buckaroo frontline rose up to get a crucial block, the Lady Bucks had the lead 25-24 with the serve. But the Rebels kept getting the Bucks’ hits back into play, and they rallied to take the set 27-25.
The Rebels took the next set 25-15 after jumping out to 11-4 lead. The effects of not prevailing in that first set seemed to slow the Bucks a little.
“It wasn’t that losing that shook us up,” stated Esplin, “it was winning the set that seemed to give them a huge jolt of confidence. We continued to play well, hit the ball great and block their hitters, but Rich kept getting the ball back up. Everything we hit, they got it back up.”
Indeed, the Rebels played nearly flawlessly against the determined Bucks. It was simply just the Rebels’ day, and after the Rebels took the third set, 25-20, Monticello dropped into the third and fourth place match against the Duchesne Eagles.
The disappointment was palpable on the faces of the Lady Buckaroos, as they took the court against the Eagles, but they shook off the setback and played Buckaroo volleyball, blasting the Eagles in the first set, 25-10.
The Eagles rallied in the second set to win in a close one, 25-22. Satisfyingly, Monticello finished out the season in characteristic dominating fashion by winning the third and fourth sets by 25-10 and 25-15 scores to claim third place.
Esplin commented, “I thought that overall we had a pretty good tournament. We just ran into a hot team that was very fundamentally sound. They made very few mistakes and played very good defense.
“We didn’t play bad; we just couldn’t be consistent enough to pull out the win. Rich was the better team that day.
“I was very proud of the girls ability to pull it back together a couple hours later and take third by beating Duchesne. This team has had a great season and should be proud of their accomplishments this year.”
Indeed, the Buckaroos end their season with a 28-4 record, which ties the MHS record for the most victories ever in a season.
The 2011 state championship team also won 28 matches, with a record of 28-3. Monticello will most likely compete in the 2A ranks next year.
This was the last volleyball for Buckaroo seniors Allie Maughan, Isabell Slade, Atlanta Black and Marci McDougall. During this group’s four-year volleyball tenure at MHS, the Bucks have finished fifth, third, second and third at the 1A volleyball state tournament, winning 12 matches and losing four over that span.
In addition, they won 92 matches over their four-year careers to just 21 losses.
Congratulations to these senior girls, the underclassmen who will carry on the tradition, the coaches, and the entire volleyball program for providing us with highly entertaining volleyball play for many a year!