Year-round efforts help Jaguars claim region title
Oct 23, 2019 02:58PM
By Greg James
Junior libero Maryjane Vanisi leads the Jaguars in digs this season with 167. (Photo courtesy of Greg James/City Journals)
By Greg James | [email protected]
West Jordan High School volleyball coaches started a program several years ago in hopes of lifting a beleaguered team to new heights. They gave junior high players a chance to play club volleyball year-round.
“That offseason program is a big thing,” Jaguars head coach Paulasi Matavao said. “We have had some kids playing for three or four years now. They have developed over the years and matured as volleyball players. I think we are starting to see the results of that offseason stuff.”
The Jaguars clinched a Region 2 title. At press deadline, they were undefeated in their region matches and had a 17-7 overall record.
“The kids are doing really well,” Matavao said. “They had a good offseason, and it is paying off for them. I think that is a big thing.”
Club volleyball is the offseason program many players use to improve their skills year-round. The season typically runs January through August. Matavao credits increased playing time to his team’s improvement.
“Playing in the offseason has really helped all of these girls,” he said.
Sophomore Mua Letoi leads the team in kills. She has averaged three kills per set.
“She (Letoi) is much better this year as a sophomore,” Matavao said. “She has matured volleyball-wise. We are winning a lot of games with this group. We are ranked higher and winning in region. This is a good group.”
Senior Kalisi Vanisi leads the team with nine assists per set, while Key Gravitt has amassed 63 blocks.
“I think volleyball maturity is the biggest difference,” Matavao said. “I feel good. I think we have a chance and will be very competitive. This group has been very fun to coach. We have been close in all of the games we have played even the ones we lost.”
The Utah High School Activities Association will use a new system this season to seed all volleyball teams into its state tournament. The ratings percentage index, or RPI, is based on the team's winning percentage and its opponents’ winning percentage. At press deadline the Jaguars are ninth in RPI.
“I think the RPI is good,” Matavao said. “It gives us an idea of where we are. It has been a motivation to move up. I think with only 28 teams in the division everyone should go to the state tournament. The old set up made it so that several good teams did not make it. I think a team should not have been punished for being in a good region.”
The state tournament is scheduled for Nov. 5–9. The first round will be held at home schools with the winners advancing to Utah Valley University in Provo for the finals.
Last season, the Jaguars lost in the first round of the tournament but managed to advance to the quarterfinals of the sixth-place bracket.