Snow volleyball wins regional tourney

Rhett Wilkinson / Messenger Photo
The Snow volleyball team won a regional championship at the Sevier Valley Center over the weekend and is now the No. 1 seed in the National Junior College Athletic Association tournament April 15-17 in West Plains, Missouri.

RICHFIELD—In their first game in a region tournament leading up to the national junior college volleyball tournament, Snow College faced elimination on four straight points.

The Badgers delivered each time.

After recovering Friday against College of Southern Idaho (19-25, 25-18, 14-25, 25-19, 16-14), Snow rode the wave of momentum to sweep USU Eastern (25-22, 25-21, 25-15) in  championship match Saturday at the Sevier Valley Center.

It was a contest between the teams ranked third and fourth in the country. But if you ask Coach Jeff Reynolds, it was a battle of the top two teams.

Snow would have advanced to the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) national tournament in any event because of its impressive play during the regular season. But by winning the region, the Badgers qualified to be the No. 1 seed at the tournament, which will be held West Plains, Missouri, April 15-17.

“We’ve got a vision. We’ve got a dream for our program; we’ve got a quest we are on,” Reynolds said. “We’ve got to go home and plan out our attack for nationals … I told my wife, I will see you in a couple of weeks.”

Three of the seven all-tournament players were Badgers: Lydia Montague, Macie Gordon and Bridgett Talia. Montague was also named the tournament’s most valuable player.

“They are Division 1-caliber players,” Reynolds said. “They are a coach’s dream.”

 Regarding the CSI game, Reynolds said, “That was one of the grittiest performances in Game Five since I’ve been here (at Snow) … I don’t have words for that one.

“When you are only playing to 15, and it is match point, that’s pretty tough,” Reynolds said.

With the Badgers down 13-9, Reynolds took a timeout. He told his team that if they got within two, they could force CSI to take their last timeout. That could create a momentum shift.

Reynolds said the team had a good game plan, and he felt like they had “everything in place.”

But CSI, which has 12 previous national championships, needed to win the tournament to go to nationals. Defeating CSI was not going to be easy “by any shape or form,” Reynolds said.

Rhett Wilkinson // Messenger Photo
KJ Strong makes a hit in the 2021 National Junior College Athletic Association Region 18 volleyball tournament.

In the second set, Snow’s hitting percentage jumped from .075 to .273—the Badgers’ highest hitting percentage of any set in the match.

“The second set was more like we play,” Reynolds said, noting his team also caused CSI to commit some errors.

But the third set marked a return to the first set.

“I’ve never used two timeouts so fast,” Reynolds said.

Talia, one of the team’s stars, was given a breather.

The fourth set saw Snow reach its goal of getting to 25 points before the opponent could reach 20.

Montague led the Badgers with 19 kills, while Talia had 16 and Macy Short had 51 assists.

Reynolds pointed out that Montague’s kills typically come from different spots on the net because he moves her around a lot.

Opposing teams “always account for her,” Reynolds said of the region player of the year. “The blockers have to account for her, and that frees up our outside hitter … she gives us a lot of options.”

Snow was 1-2 against USU Eastern heading into the region championship game.

The Badgers had watched USU Eastern’s semifinal game against Salt Lake Community College and had seen some things, Reynolds said.

In the first set, the Badgers faced a deficit as 10 of USU Eastern’s first 13 points came off Snow errors. In fact, Reynolds came as close as he could to the court, pointed at the scoreboard and pointed out that fact to his team.

But the coach also reminded them of their ability to “overcome hard things,” he said.

“We’ve got great poise and they played calm, cool and collected,” Reynolds said.

The second set was a little back and forth. The Badgers took momentum from the first set and gained a nice lead but then “sat back on [their] heels,” Reynolds said.

“We had to shift our mindset,” he said.

Snow controlled the third set, and Reynolds said you see that in big games, after a team has taken a 2-0 advantage in sets.

“We kept pounding them down a little bit, knowing at any minute they were a good enough team to come back,” Reynolds added.

Montague led with 16 kills, while Gordon and Talia added nine and eight, respectively. Gordon got hot, especially at the end of the second set. Short had 37 assists.

Of USU Eastern, Reynolds said, “It would be great to see them again at nationals.”

Reynolds expressed appreciation to the Snow cheerleaders, the Badgerettes, and to fans for coming to Richfield and cheering the team on during the title game.

Rhett Wilkinson // Messenger Photo
Front row (L-R): Hannah Huntington, Hailee Oldroyd, Megan Pannell, Ellie Martindale, Hannah Edward, Jentry Ison, Camden Strain and Delaney Palmer. Back row (L-R): Thea Bailey, Marcie Gordon, Eden Whitmore, Bridgett Talia, Georgia Hollings, Kara Calyton, Keyaira Gravitt, Lydia Montague, Marcy Short, Kjersti Strong, Julia Smith, Coach Jeff Reynolds and Snow Athletic Director Rob Nielson.