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Jaguar volleyball captures confidence

Dec 01, 2017 08:00AM ● Published by Greg James

The West Jordan High School volleyball team advanced in the state tournament with only two returning players. (West Jordan Volleyball)

On paper, the season for the West Jordan High School girls volleyball team seems lackluster, but in reality it experienced a confidence boost.

“I felt pretty good about the team and our season,” Jaguar head coach Paulasi Mataveo said. “I think our kids really came through for us. We are young volleyball-wise (experience). We had a few players that are new to the game. This season we only had two players that played varsity last season.”

Freshman Maryjane Vanisi and her sister Kalisi, a sophomore, started the majority of the season for the young team. 

Kalisi was the team’s setter and missed the last part of the season for personal reasons. She led the team in assists with 223. Mataveo said the team came together in her absence and played well in the state tournament. 

“We had to ask some kids to play out of position, and they really stepped up and played well,” Mataveo said. “Maryjane is a good athlete, and she was able to help as the setter. She is a good enough athlete to step in. Lani Jaeger was our defensive specialist, and she also helped out a lot.” 

Jaeger and Maryjane combined for 73 assists in the last two weeks of the season.

“Maryjane is a type of player that has a lot of upside,” Mataveo said. “I think people are going to need to keep an eye on her the next few years. She has raw talent and never really worked on aspects of her game. When she is done at West Jordan people, will know who she is.” 

The Jaguars qualified for the state tournament by finishing in fourth place in Region 3. They compiled a 6-11 overall record this season.

Mataveo said the team played better than expected in the state tournament.

In its first match of the tournament, West Jordan faced Region 1 champion and eventual fifth-place state finisher Syracuse. Without much expectation, the Jaguars played well. They defeated the Titans in the first set 26-24. The set victory boosted the confidence of the team.

“We ran into a challenge and struggled to mold the team,” Mataveo said. “When we won a game from a No. 1 seed, I think that was a good reward for us to see what we can do,” Mataveo said. 

The Jaguars eventually lost to Syracuse 24-26, 25-14, 25-11,25-11. Their first-round loss placed them into the consolation tournament where they defeated Hillcrest 25-19, 25-12, 20-25,25-16. 

On the second day of the tournament, they lost in the consolation semifinals to Copper Hills 3-0.

Senior Tatyana Tofa led the team with 97 kills. Ariana Perez was second with 82. Mataveo said they were leaders in the program.

“She (Tofa) was one of our main girls this year,” he said. “A returning varsity player, she was steady all year for us. Ariana Perez was another senior and returner. Without those two, it would have been different for us in the middle. They were the cornerstone for us.” 

The Jaguars have qualified for the state tournament for seven straight seasons. This was Mataveo’s second season as the Jaguar head coach.

“I think our program is on the right path,” he said. “We want a team that the community will be proud of. We are starting a junior high program. We are trying to model what the successful programs around the state are doing. We have some good kids that are starting young.” 

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