Grizzlies take second at state volleyball tournament
Dec 11, 2019 03:15PM
By Greg James
Asiah Sopoaga digs a ball against Westlake in the state tournament. She had 275 digs on the season to go along with her 348 kills. (Justin Adams/City Journals)
By Greg James | [email protected]
Copper Hills High School’s volleyball team has seen vast improvement the last few years. It’s second-place finish at the state tournament is beyond what players and coaches expected this season.
“I can look on the court and feel confident,” Grizzlies head coach Silver Fonua said. “Our girls look forward to playing high school volleyball. Many teams have players that want to play club, but our girls look forward to playing for their high school,”
The Grizzlies entered the state tournament ranked first in the Utah High School Activities Association’s new ratings percentage index. They closed out the regular season with only two losses.
They cruised through their first three matches in the state tournament, defeating West Lake, Corner Canyon and Lone Peak all in three straight sets. In the final, against Pleasant Grove, they opened with a 25-14 victory in the first set, but the Vikings rebounded to sweep the next three for the victory, 25-20, 25-15 and 25-22.
“We didn't start the season thinking we would have the record we have,” Fonua said. “I think we expected to do well, but most of our talent is younger. We have done a lot of good. We practice every day and play two games a week, but looking back each week it has added up and we said `wow.’ It has been a fun season.”
Fonua knew his team would be talented
“I never planned on being No. 1 headed into the tournament,” Fonua said. “I am not sure any team feels that way. I figured we would be one of the best.”
Its second-place finish is the highest in school history. It tops last season’s third-place finish.
“We don’t have the history like other schools; that plays into the pressure they feel,” Fonua said. “Every year we are getting a little bit better. We always expect to come back and say can we do better.”
Junior Teniyah Leuluai led the team in assists. As a setter, she has committed to continue her volleyball career at Portland State after she graduates.
“We have girls that play in national tournaments at high levels,” Fonua said. “A few others have offers but have not made decisions yet.”
Junior twins Aliyah and Asiah Sopoaga are among those with opportunities to continue playing after high school. Asiah led the team in kills, senior Paiton Langston averaged more than a block per set and junior libero Sydnee Steel led in digs.
Langston was also given an Academic All-State award for excellence in the classroom and on the court.
“I think we have gotten buy-in from the parents and the kids,” Fonua said. “In the past, kids were going to other schools. We created our junior high feeder program, and now they want to play with their friends.”
The team's success has helped them keep talented players.
“Players can come here and play at a high level,” Fonua said. “Roni (Grizzly alumni) came here, and we look up to her. We certainly know a girl can come from West Jordan and dream big and be big.”
Roni Jones graduated from Copper Hills and played volleyball at BYU. She now plays professionally in Italy.
“It is a testament to our program,” Fonua said. “Our players play at a high level.”