Grizzlies volleyball seize third place at state
Nov 20, 2018 03:42PM
● By Greg James
Aspen Anderson blocks a spike during the state tournament. (Justin Adams/City Journals)
Copper Hills Volleyball [3 Images] Click Any Image To Expand
By Greg James | [email protected]
Copper Hills has turned its volleyball team into a contender. Its top finish this season may single it out in years to come.
“This season has been more satisfying than last year was,” Grizzlies head coach Silver Fonua said. “We had a much more difficult preseason, and our team got nothing but better. We also had a more difficult region than in the past years.”
The Grizzlies finished undefeated in Region 3. They defeated Herriman twice to defend their title. In the final match of the regular season, senior Payton Birch and sophomore Asiah Sopoaga combined for 34 kills in the five set victory.
Copper Hills advanced to the semifinals of the state tournament with a four-set victory over American Fork and a three-set sweep of Fremont.
After losing to the eventual state champion, Lone Peak, the Grizzlies faced Bingham. A well-rounded game against the Miners resulted in a third-place finish.
“Our core players are mainly sophomores,” Fonua said. “They grew up here, played in our junior high program, and so they have played lots of matches. Truth is that if they are not playing club then they are not competing. I would say that 95 percent of our girls play club now; five years ago maybe 5 percent did. Our parents have really bought into the importance of the offseason.”
Twins Asiah and Aliyah Sopoaga anchor a team with future potential. The sophomores combined for 444 kills and 49 services aces. Teniyah Leuluia led the team with 42 aces. Addison Downs led the team in blocks.
“The twins are young,” Fonua said. “They play so well and have high expectations of everyone on the court. They also work harder than anyone else out there. Their effort is a lot of the reasons that they are leaders of this team.”
The Grizzlies boast a well-rounded team. They had five players in triple digits offensive kills, three players with more than 20 aces and five with double digit blocks.
“Our ball control is the strength of the team,” Fonua said. “Our serving really puts the other team in positions so we can capitalize, but our serving gets us to that point. Then we are really good defensively. Our team reacts well to what the opponent is doing.”
The Grizzlies faced the state’s top teams in preparation for their season. They played Lone Peak, American Fork twice and Skyridge (the 5A state champion). Fonua attributes his team's tough schedule as a precursor to a successful season.
By playing tougher competition, the Grizzlies have been able to find the places they could improve to help them overcome their opponents.
“We have been down that road where we have lost the momentum,” Fonua said. “Volleyball is all about momentum. That was not new to us. We have played in some tough tournaments. We have been down before. We have a short-term memory and hit a reset button. I think that is why we are one of the favorites at the state tournament. We are learning to trust our training. These girls are great students. Their habits off the court carry onto the court. We expect our parents to help us do what we need to do.”