Prep volleyball: Pleasant Grove tweaks practice in hopes of staying hot

Prep volleyball • Pleasant Grove is eager for a rematch with Lone Peak.
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Scrutiny. Expectations. Consequences. All words Pleasant Grove volleyball players live by when they set foot on the court, whether it's in practice or a match.

Second-year coach Allyce Jones revamped her team's practice routines in an effort to avoid hitting the dreaded plateau — the same one that claimed the Vikings' 2011 season.

Players are being watched closely in workouts this year. Mistakes are recorded. Penalties handed out.

"We work 10 times harder," senior outside hitter Melissa Fuchs said. "I can see much more improvement compared to what we did last year. I feel like we are getting better at every practice. And we're not done getting better."

Jones, a former Vikings player, said the changes — inspired by successful coaches such as John Wooden — were aimed at building the mental toughness she felt was lacking a season ago.

The Vikings have thrived in the environment so far.

"We've made it to where we have to get better at things, or there are consequences," Jones said.

The Vikings sat in second place in the talented Region 4 standings entering the week. Their only defeat came against rival Lone Peak.

Fuchs said the 26-24, 25-16, 27-25 loss last month served as a wake-up call for Pleasant Grove, which is seeking its first region title since it won state in 2009.

"I think losing to them was not a bad thing," said Fuchs, the team captain, who will play at Central Michigan next season. "We're looking at it as they already reached their goal, but we're continuing to get better."

The Vikings have received major contributions from Katherine Biggs, who Jones says is "a very quick defender," libero Delayne Daniel and middle blocker Gabrielle Jenkinson.

A rematch with Lone Peak looms Oct. 18, this time in the Vikings' gym. Jones said she expects her team to be ready to go.

"We definitely have that rivalry with Lone Peak," Jones said. "It's been there for years, even back when I played. We have the physical part, we just need the mental toughness to finish against that team."

First at last

After three consecutive runner-up finishes in Region 8, Maple Mountain's girls soccer team claimed the region title last week.

Behind sophomore goalkeeper Brooke McCluskey, the Golden Eagles (14-2) finished region play 13-1 and allowed an average of one goal per game. They will be one of the top seeds when the Class 4A playoff brackets are released this week. —