1A volleyball: Monticello defends state title

Prep volleyball • Takes five sets to top St. Joseph in finale.
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Orem • Monticello outside hitter Shaylyn Black stood in the scattered mess of black and orange that enveloped her, and there was happiness on her face.

Considering what the Buckaroos had just gone through, there also was relief.

Monticello withstood a desperate St. Joseph comeback attempt, 25-20, 25-19, 23-25, 17-25, 15-11, to capture its second straight Class 1A volleyball state title Saturday at Utah Valley University.

"We just knew we needed to have the energy to go back and win it," Black said. "We won the first two, so we knew we could do it again.

"It's so awesome. We felt the pressure of repeating, and we did it. Our goal was to have fun and be a team, and we did it. We knew a championship would come, and it did."

The Buckaroos were dominant at times and pulled away in each of the first two sets to get within one set of the state title.

But St. Joseph wasn't quite ready for its season to be finished. After falling behind again in the third set, the Jayhawks rallied to overtake the Buckaroos and extend the match.

The Jayhawks then controlled and won the fourth set to send it to the winner-take-all fifth.

The Buckaroos finally regained control in the fifth. They established and ultimately preserved a big lead to finish off the match.

"The kids were all worried about living up to last year's team," Buckaroos coach Tony Esplin said. "I said, 'Hey, we're a different team, and it's a different year. It can be every bit as good in a different way.' They rose to the occasion."

Black and Jessica Ewart had 16 kills apiece to pace the Buckaroos, while Britt Sederholm led the Jayhawks with 26 kills and 15 digs.

St. Joseph advanced to the championship by winning a 25-16, 20-25, 25-19, 15-25, 15-12 semifinal thriller against Rich, which many considered to be the top threat to win the title after finishing second to Monticello last year.

The Jayhawks went up two sets to one, but the Rebels, who won Region 21, responded by dominating the fourth set and grabbing the momentum. St. Joseph was able to win the close final set to seal its trip to the final.

Monticello had a much easier time in its semifinal, dispatching Piute in three sets, 25-19, 25-14, 25-21.

Piute won Region 20 and breezed into the semifinal relatively unchallenged, but the Buckaroos' experience was too much for the Thunderbirds. —

In short

R Monticello drops only one set in the tournament before needing five in the final.