All-State volleyball: Pleasant Grove's Allyce Jones is Coach of the Year

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Halfway into the season, Pleasant Grove volleyball coach Allyce Jones introduced to her team a motto meant to ignite the Vikings, who were talented but had yet to adopt the mental outlook necessary to beat the best teams in the state.

The mantra was simple and succinct, yet it encapsulated everything Jones wanted her players to believe, to accept as an incontrovertible truth anytime they stepped on the court.

"We are fire," the motto read.

"That mentality changed my girls completely," Jones said. "It meant we knew who we were. We knew how good we were."

By the time the season was over, the rest of the state found out what Jones had known all along — that her team was as good as any it would face. The Vikings swept their way through the playoffs, culminating with the Class 5A title.

The road to the playoffs was plenty difficult in Region 4. Three of the four teams to reach the state semifinals — Lone Peak, Pleasant Grove and Lehi — competed in the region.

What made the season and the championship special, though, is the road Jones and the Vikings took to get there. They split two regular-season matches with defending champion Davis and lost twice to heavyweight Lone Peak. But in the playoffs, it was the Vikings who played like the title favorites, sweeping the Darts in the semifinals and the Knights in the title match.

"That's what made this year so fun," Jones said. "We weren't the team to beat — we were the underdogs. ... The girls were playing a high level of ball the last week of practice, and they knew they could do it."

In the moments following the title match sweep against Lone Peak, which had not lost a set to the Vikings in their previous two meetings, Jones expressed utmost confidence in her team. Asked if she was surprised the Vikings swept a team that previously had confounded them, Jones was quick to say that she'd always believed her team was capable of reaching such heights.

Jones, who is in her second year with Pleasant Grove, is quick to deflect credit for the Vikings' run to the title, instead shifting the attention to her staff and players.

"They all had the motivation to keep improving," Jones said. "Sometimes it gets fatiguing when you hear over and over again what you need to fix, but these girls came into the gym ready to work every single day."