The Monument Valley High School volleyball team was riding a three-game winning streak when they headed into the 1A Utah State Volleyball Championships on Friday, November 1 at Utah Valley University (UVU) in Orem.
Their 10-3 regular season record was good enough for third place in the UHSAA 1A volleyball RPI standings and earned them a first-round bye in the tourney.
In round two, the Lady Cougars faced a Wayne team that finished seventh in Region 20. They came into the tournament ranked 14th, and had beaten Pinnacle to advance to the second-round matchup with Monument Valley.
Early on, it looked like the momentum of the Lady Badgers’ play-in win would help them upset Monument Valley. They opened the first set on an impressive run, and Monument Valley trailed 11-2 before the Lady Cougars stormed back to take their first lead 17-16.
It was a back-and-forth battle down the stretch, but Monument Valley seized control for good when the match was tied at 21. They outscored Wayne 4-1 from that point to take a hard-fought first set 25-22.
The Lady Cougars had their hands full again when they fell behind early in set two. Down 7-4, they rallied to steadily build a lead to 22-16. But Wayne put together their own comeback to tie the set 22-22.
Impressively, Monument Valley was once again able to outscore the Lady Badgers to close out an exciting 25-22 win.
Facing elimination, Wayne brought all they had for set three. This time Monument Valley drew first blood and held an early lead. Midway through the set, the Lady Badgers rallied to tie, and the teams traded the lead until the Lady Cougars were able to surge ahead to 20-16.
Wayne battled hard and pulled within two points, but Monument Valley was able to keep them at arm’s length down the stretch for a 25-19 straight-sets win.
It set up a quarterfinal matchup between #3 Monument Valley and #6 Milford Friday night. The Lady Tigers finished in third place in Region 20 this season, and would prove to be an insurmountable obstacle for the Lady Cougars.
Although Monument Valley battled hard and never quit, Milford held the lead in every set and cruised to 25-12, 25-17, and 25-18 wins over the Lady Cougars.
The tough loss dropped Monument Valley to the fifth place semifinals and a matchup with #7 Valley on Saturday, November 2.
Early on it looked like the Lady Cougars would bounce back and earn a birth in the fifth place game. They led the first set from start to finish, holding on for a 25-23 win over the Lady Buffalos.
But the wheels fell off at that point. Valley handed Monument Valley a 25-9 loss in set two, held them off in a hard-fought third-set battle 25-23, and closed them out 25-16 in the fourth set.
The season-ending loss was a tough pill to swallow for a Lady Cougar squad that won a Region 19 co-championship and finished the regular season with only three losses.
But with an 11-5 record, the team finishes above .500 for the sixth straight season as they continue to build on an already-solid program.
Monument Valley head coach Vanessa Russell said one of the most exciting aspects of coaching the volleyball team this season was seeing the players “grow closer together and become more confident in communicating with each other.”
As is always the case in high school sports, turnover will be a problem for Monument Valley next season. The Lady Cougars will be without the services of five seniors who will graduate at the end of the year.
But developing young players to step up and fill big roles is a challenge Coach Russell has overcome before. She looks forward to overcoming it again as Monument Valley volleyball heads into the future.