Hawk volleyball team comes back
to win 6-2 in first playoff round
By Rhett Wilkinson
MT. PLEASANT—In the first round of the 2020 UHSAA/Mountain America Volleyball Championships, the North Sanpete Hawks volleyball team was best with its back against the wall.
The Hawks (17-9) came back from two sets down and behind 6-2 in the fifth stanza over the Grantsville Cowboys (10-18) for a combined score of 22-25, 13-25, 25-19, 25-22, 16-14 at North Sanpete High School.
North Sanpete Coach Rickie Stewart called the game “crazy.”
“I think our mindset just shifted to ‘OK, we can only control the next ball,’” Stewart said. “We can’t look at the hole we dug … we talked about ‘one ball at a time.’”
Pandemonium ensued from the Grantsville side of the court in the fifth set when a Cowboy made a desperate one-handed side hit over the net, resulting in a Grantsville point. It was part of a 6-2 run by the Cowboys to open the final set, putting the Hawks just nine points from elimination. But then a kill from Graciee Christiansen and subsequent North Sanpete block gave the Hawks their first lead of the stanza, 12-11.
North Sanpete enjoyed a 5-1 run to start the fourth set. It then led 7-3 after Christiansen made a tremendous kill. However, Grantsville then went on a 6-2 run to knot the score at 9. A powerful kill from Halee Pay damaged the Cowboys’ momentum before Christiansen’s kill gave the Hawks a 16-13 edge.
North Sanpete gained another point before Grantsville went on a 4-0 spurt, prompting a timeout from Stewart. But then Jentrey Rigby made a tremendous block to give the Hawks a 20-18 edge. Down 21-20, Melissa Ferre delivered a kill that hit the opposing baseline, resulting in a major point swing. The point seemed to take wind out of the Cowboys’ sails; it sparked a 5-1 run to give North Sanpete the set win.
Down 3-0 – and one set from elimination – the Hawks went on another 5-1 run to lead 5-4 in the third set. Rigby made a great touch over the net to give North Sanpete a 12-8 lead. Ferre made a gutsy kill as the Hawks took an 18-14 advantage. Mekai Laupapa made a laser kill as North Sanpete took at 23-18 lead. Laupapa finished Grantsville for the stanza with a pinpointing touch hit. Many errors ended the points in the third set.
A 5-0 run by the Cowboys put North Sanpete behind 11-5 in the second stanza. Laupapa nicely touched the ball over the net for one of two Hawk points, but overall, Grantsville went on a 13-4 run to take a commanding 19-9 lead. North Sanpete went on to lose the set shortly thereafter.
Even as the score was just 2-1 Cowboys to start only the second set, Grantsville displayed the same high level of energy that they put off during warmups. That energy only continued into the third stanza, when they were making even unique sounds together.
“Their energy and effort was a lot better than ours,” Stewart said, noting that the Cowboys had such energy even in the locker room. “They were just happy to be here and happy to play. So we need to take a page out of that book, for sure. And we talked to our kids about that, like ‘you’re not matching their energy and that’s why they’re beating you.’”
To end the first set and throughout the second stanza, the Hawks were hitting many simple shots out of bounds – or into the net, as was the case when North Sanpete fell behind 7-5 in the second set. They also couldn’t handle a routine dig.
In the first set, North Sanpete went on a 7-1 run to take a 16-12 lead in that stanza. However, that preceded Grantsville going on a 6-2 run to win the set.
Stewart believes that 11th-seeded Cowboys were “probably” worthy of being a top-eight seeded team, looking at rating percentage index, a formula utilized to rate teams predicated on a team’s wins, losses and strength of schedule.
North Sanpete advanced to play third-seeded Morgan at 11 a.m. Tuesday at Sevier Valley Center.
“If we can play confidently, I think we’re as good as anybody in the top eight,” Stewart said. She also remarked that the team needs to be in the moment.
“We’re just happy to advance,” Stewart said. “Let’s get ready to go play again!”