"I don't know why we needed to warm up a bit, but apparently we did," Thunder coach Jill Swaney said. "We knew Juan Diego was going to be tough, so I think when we came out, we had a little bit of nerves going on."
Juan Diego stole the momentum early, jumping to a 6-1 lead in the first set that it wouldn't relinquish.
The Thunder took control from the beginning of the second set.
"I just told them to make sure their mind is focused on the fundamentals," Swaney said. "That first game, passing was terrible. So we went right back down to basics."
Desert Hills faced little resistance in the second set. Already leading 10-7, the Thunder went on a six-point run to break it open.
Tied at 11-11 in the third set, the Thunder took the lead for good, though the Soaring Eagle kept it close. Desert Hills effectively wrapped up the set and the match with an eight-point run in the middle of the fourth game.
"Our whole motto has been this year to expect nothing and to work for everything," Swaney said. "We try to come in and work for every single point and not be surprised by things that happen."
Lindsay Jones led the Thunder with 14 kills and 10 blocks, and Blair Bliss added 13 kills. Annie Tice had a team-leading 14 kills for the Soaring Eagle.
Two-time defending state champion and prohibitive favorite Morgan overcame a surprising challenge from Dixie 17-25, 25-20, 25-20, 22-25, 15-10 to again qualify for the semis. After Morgan lost just 26 total points in its first-round win over Park City, the Trojans took two of the first three sets from the Flyers in the quarterfinal.
The Flyers, the third seed from Region 9, pushed the Trojans to five sets, though they ultimately couldn't pull off what would have been the biggest upset of the tournament.
Region 12 champion Delta earned its way into a semifinal matchup with Desert Hills with a 25-22, 25-17, 21-25, 25-18 win over Uintah. This is the second consecutive season the Rabbits have reached the semis.
Snow Canyon, which finished second to Desert Hills in Region 9, beat Judge Memorial 25-17, 25-23, 25-11 to reach the semis for the second straight season.
Scores of the 3A first-round matches
Uintah def. Stansbury 25-14, 21-25, 11-25, 25-16, 17-15
Delta def. Hurricane 25-13, 25-17, 25-20
Desert Hills def. Payson 25-13, 25-17, 25-12
Juan Diego def. Tooele 26-24, 25-18, 25-9
Snow Canyon def. Spanish Fork 25-14, 25-17, 25-9
Judge Memorial def. Grantsville 25-19, 25-10, 25-6
Morgan def. Park City 25-7, 25-13, 25-6
Dixie def. North Sanpete 25-10, 25-13, 25-15
P 3A semifinals
• Delta vs. Desert Hills, 10:30 a.m.
• Snow Canyon vs. Morgan, 12:30 p.m.
3A final • 8 p.m.
• St. Joseph vs. Rich, 10:30 a.m.
• Monticello vs. Piute, 12:30 p.m.
1A final • 5:30 p.m.