Jaguars beat quarantine and opponents this seasonOct 26, 2020 04:41PM ● By Greg James
Jaguar Sophomore Lani Matavao leads the team with 31 serving aces this season. (Greg James/City Journals)
By Greg James | [email protected]
Quarantined not once but twice, the West Jordan girls volleyball club is still on track to be a top-ranked team headed into the state tournament.
“We were playing well in the beginning then we got quarantined,” Jaguar volleyball coach Paulasi Matavao said. “That slowed us down a little bit.”
The Jaguars canceled their game against Riverton early in the season, and then two weeks later were forced to postpone three region matches.
“It has been really difficult,” Matavao said. “It is hard on the girls; they love to play, so it has been tough. It seems like we started out, had to stop and start all over again.”
Two players on the girls volleyball squad tested positive for the Coronavirus, and the entire team and school were forced to postpone all activities.
Despite the disruption in the season, the Jaguars have achieved a stellar record. At the press deadline, they are undefeated in the Utah High School Activities Association’s Region 2.
“We have several girls that play club volleyball together, so they know each other pretty well,” Matavao said. “They work out together, so that has been helpful for us to bounce back quickly.”
A strong and consistent start has elevated the Jaguars in the rating performance index used by the UHSAA to seed teams for the state tournament. They have been ranked as high as seventh. Last season, they finished eighth overall with a 22-7 record.
Matavao encourages his team members to play as much they can.
“We have some kids that have potential at the next level,” Matavao said. “I encourage them to play year-round. The club helps them get those extra touches.”
Sophomore Lani Matavao leads the team with nearly eight assists per set. Junior Mailei Myers has 27 blocks in their first eight games, and senior MJ Vanisi is averaging over two kills per set.
“These girls are very competitive,” Matavao said. “That is the first thing I notice as a coach. They click very well. They all make each other better by pushing each other in practice. The effort is far better than we have ever had.”
Matavao is in his fourth season as the girls head coach. The Jaguars are the defending Region 2 champions, and last season they beat Roy in the first round of the state tournament before losing to Corner Canyon in the second.
“The culture has really changed,” Matavao said. “We have preached to them that hard work pays off. We have wanted the girls to compete for positions and work to beat out the next girl. We are seeing the results. Our junior high program has really helped too. The kids are playing at a young age. They come through our program.”
West Jordan and fellow westside schools Copper Hills, Granger and Hunter have seen improvement in the squads that past three seasons. Copper Hills finished second overall last year; Hunter is 9-2 this season.
“I think girls are just playing more,” Matavao said. “I see girls from these westside schools at club tournaments. That scene has really helped. Our girls just have a friendship and they like each other. They are special and have been playing together for quite a few years. They like each other; they are special.”
The high school state tournament is scheduled to begin Nov. 3. This season, the finals will be held at Salt Lake Community College Nov. 6