Prep volleyball: Win at state caps Kearns' turnaround

Prep volleyball • Cougars went 1-1 on the first day of the Class 5A state tournament.
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At the midway point of the volleyball season, there was only one Class 5A team without a victory — the Kearns Cougars.

Earning a single win seemed like a long shot; flying to the moon seemed more likely than a trip to the state tournament at that juncture. Yet Kearns rallied together, made it to state and won a playoff match.

Kearns went 0-11 in the preseason, winning a total of three sets. It then dropped its Region 2 opener to West. That was the Cougars' 17th straight loss dating back to 2011. It was then that they decided enough was enough, and Kearns snapped its losing streak by knocking off Granger.

"We realized that we had to come together as a team if we wanted to change our luck," junior Tavane Afatasi said. "It's not very much fun to lose all the time."

As the region season progressed, the Cougars ground out two more wins to claim an improbable spot in the playoffs.

Kearns had the unfortunate lot of facing top-seeded Davis in the first round of the tournament, and the Darts made quick work of Kearns. But instead of folding, the Cougars bounced back and swept Alta in consolation play to stay alive for one more day.

"It has been a long time since Kearns has made it to Day 2 of the tournament," Kearns coach Kasala Kasala said. "Beating Alta was a big deal. That was the defining moment of our season."

Brighton then eliminated Kearns in four sets, but the Cougars were more than happy with what they were able to do. In the span of about seven weeks, Kearns went from being a winless team that struggled to be competitive to a team that was two sets away from placing at state.

"This will raise the excitement surrounding the program," Kasala said. "We will have a better turnout next year because we showed that the underdog really can win."

Stallions ousted

The Stansbury football team saw its season come to an end in the state quarterfinals for the second straight season. The Stallions fell to Dixie, 20-13, in their only loss of the season. With quarterback Chase Christiansen and top defensive back Zayne Anderson returning next year, Stansbury hopes it can use the offseason to get over the hump.

Seniors leave mark

After winning four of its final five region games, the Kearns football team was shut out by Davis in the opening round. While a playoff win or two would have been nice, a pair of seniors still went out with a bang. Running back James Felila finished the season with 22 touchdowns and just under 2,000 yards rushing. Linebacker Hetu Mataele was one of Region 2's top defenders, leading the region in sacks with nine. He was also fifth in tackles with 70.