by Walter & Becky Bird
What will the 2017 Monticello volleyball season hold? If the past is any indication, the girls should be very competitive under the direction of Head Coach Tony Esplin.
Esplin guided the girls to 1A state titles in 2011 and 2012, and his teams have been a constant fixture in the state semi-finals for more than a decade.
We asked Coach Esplin what he thought the upcoming year would hold.
1. What experienced players do you have coming back?
Those coming back with the most varsity experience are Abbi Nielson, who played Libero last year; Tristen Esplin, who was a defensive specialist; Journey Baird, who was an outside hitter; and Shaylee Bradford, who was also an outside hitter. Ashley Adair and Erin Rogers also had some varsity experience last year.
However, almost every returning player is playing a different position this year, so we will have to get the chemistry worked out over time.
2. How does your schedule set your team up for success in 2017?
We try to play a tough schedule throughout the season to try to keep us motivated to keep improving all season long. We can’t settle to be good enough to compete and hopefully win region. We must continue to progress and be able to compete with the best teams, regardless of the classification.
3. What newcomers will have an impact on this year’s team?
I don’t know that we have newcomers, but we do have most of the team playing different positions from what they played last year. There may be a couple individuals who don’t have to switch, but for the most part we have had to adjust most everyone. So, in a sense, almost everyone is a newcomer this year.
4. What will be your keys to success this season?
Our keys to success are to be able to control what we can control, take advantage of our strengths, and work to improve on our weaknesses. I have always believed that the simple, but tough keys to success are serving and receiving. If we can out-perform our opponents in those areas, we will be able to be competitive.
5. What impact will the realignment of 1A schools have on volleyball and the teams to watch?
I don’t think the changes in classifications of some teams will have much effect on the 1A class. The traditionally competitive 1A teams are still there and will still be competitive.
I believe the changing of some teams to different regions will add some parity and afford a few teams a chance to go further into the state tournament. I do believe it strengthened a couple regions, but only time and play will tell. The game is still the same as it was last year.
Monticello v. Wayne
In a show of class, the Wayne Badgers honored Staff Sgt. Aaron Butler with planted U.S. flags and a moment of silence before the Wayne – Monticello football game on August 25.
Fortunately, Monticello bounced back from a loss in week one with a dominant non-region road win against Wayne. The 44-0 win evens the Buckaroo record at 1-1 on the young season.
Spencer Knudsen got the offense going with four touchdown passes. Wide receiver Max Hedglin was a key target and caught two of those touchdown passes, giving him three on the season.
The defense was stout in the shut-out win and Tyler Draper added a defensive touchdown in the second half for the Bucks.
Earlier in the week, the Buckaroo JV football team held off Monument Valley for a solid 29-18 win.
Monticello hopes to keep the momentum going in the right direction at 7 p.m. on Friday, September 1 when they kick off against San Juan in Blanding.
Loyds Lake Classic
Conditions couldn’t have been better for the Loyds Lake Classic, the cross country event hosted by Monticello High School on August 25.
And the running didn’t disappoint, with some great performances at all levels.
In a touching tribute to his older brother Staff Sgt. Aaron Butler, Monticello cross country alum Adam Butler fired the starting gun for the boys high school race. The team also planted a U.S. flag near the start to honor Butler.
Running the course in an opposite direction than past years, the Buckaroo boys were edged by Grand 25-31.
Adam Bunker ran well and paced Monticello with a third place finish in 17:21. He is followed in the top ten by Ryan Bird (eighth in 18:31) and Alan Pettit (ninth in 18:40).
Other Buckaroos are Hyrum Johnson (18:47), Dylan Bird (18:52), Lucas Hatch (19:08), Justus Robison, Britton Brewer, Parker Walker, Zac Musselman, Bowden Hunter, Joseph Morrison, Dawson Atwood and Robert Musselman.
The Monticello girls placed fifth as a team, with Serra St. Clair leading the way with a 15th place finish of 24:48. Kennedy Brewer, Makayla Sheeran, Kaitlyn Morrison and Jessica Begay finish out the team.
In the girls junior high race, Monticello took the team title by out distancing ARL 14-36. Adri Bird set a girls course record in 9:29, which is the best time of the day for all junior high runners, boys or girls.
She is followed by teammates Lilly Long (third in 11:34), Raylee Kelley (sixth in 12:06), Lidia Chamberlain (seventh in 12:15), Rosy Beh (ninth in 12:29), and Berlynn Black (tenth in 12:32).
Others running well are Shannon Morrison, Millie Morrison, Jacy Montague, Sophia Morrison, and Katelyn Pehrson.
In the boys junior high race, there was a timing problem so there were no team scores as of the print deadline. Buck boys running well are Bailey Walker (seventh in 10:30 and Curtis Bunker (eighth in 10:34). Jessie Pettit, Jacob Johnson, and Treydon Harris also ran well.
The Buck team runs again on Wednesday, August 30 at 3 p.m. at the Moab Golf Course.
Dixie volleyball Tournament
The Buckaroo volleyball season kicked off in balmy St. George over the past weekend at the Dixie Tournament. In pool play, the Bucks defeated Canyon View, Valley, Grantsville, and Emery before falling to South Sevier and Pineview.
This fine play earned them a place in the gold bracket with the top eight teams, all from 3A schools or larger. Ultimately, the girls lost to 4A Dixie, eliminating them from contention.
In junior varsity action, the girls took fifth in pool play and fifth overall in the silver bracket.
The coaches are pleased with the play of both teams and are excited about the season.
This week, the volleyball team heads to Durango for a match on August 29 and plays a junior varsity tournament in Blanding over the weekend.