Lone Peak, PG head and shoulders above the crowd in prep volleyball
No offense to the other high school volleyball programs in the state of Utah, but Lone Peak and Pleasant Grove have simply been operating on a higher level.
It’s an undeniable fact that the Knights and the Vikings have the most dominant programs in the state’s largest classification. The two schools have won seven state championships each and since 2001 have claimed 13 of the 17 state titles.
The past two seasons, Lone Peak and Pleasant Grove have played well into the night at Utah Valley University’s UCCU Center, with the Knights winning the 2016 and 2017 championships in five grueling sets.
The two programs have had excellent coaches over the years: Deanna Meyer and Reed Carlson at Lone Peak and Mike Daniels, Jamie Schapper and Allyce Jones at Pleasant Grove, who continually produce top level talent. Madi Robinson (Lone Peak) and Heather Gneiting (Pleasant Grove) are key contributors as freshmen at BYU and were on the floor for the Cougars’ stunning upset of top-ranked Stanford last Friday. Players from both schools dot the rosters of nearly all of the college programs in Utah.
Both Carlson and Jones are tied in to the club scene in Utah and have built their programs in similar fashion.
“We do a lot of mindset training and we have a vision,” Carlson said. “We have missions every week we are trying to accomplish. We try to stay extremely focused and intense, no matter who we’re playing. We have daily values we try to live and set standards we try to follow. We don’t talk so much about winning, we talk about how we play, how we go about our business on a daily basis.”
Jones, a former Pleasant Grove standout, passes on what she learned from her coaches to the athletes and has them teach the new players.
“We do it by establishing a culture of work ethic, team chemistry and pride for your school that continues every year,” she said. “Your older class teaches your younger class. When you have those in the mix, success will come.”
Lone Peak will be a heavy favorite to win its third championship in a row in 2018. The Knights are loaded with talent, including senior outside hitter Tasia Farmer, senior middle blocker Kennedi Boyd and senior libero Hikialani Kaohelaulii.
“On paper, this is probably the best team we’ve ever had,” Carlson said. “We’ve got a really big senior class and they’ve been really impressive this year as far as the team coming together. I feel like we have an opportunity, not just locally but nationally to do some things and even surpass what we did last year.”
Lone Peak will play in the Durango Fall Classic in Las Vegas on Sept. 14 and 15. That tournament includes a large portion of the nation’s top ranked prep volleyball programs, including Assumption (Kentucky), Walton (Ga.), Mater Dei (Calif.) and Torrey Pines (Calif.). The Knights will also compete in a national tournament in Phoenix.
Pleasant Grove lost seven seniors from last year’s team that pushed Lone Peak to five sets in the 6A title match, but Jones has a terrific group of underclassmen that will keep the Vikings near the top.
“Our younger class is hungry to get better and represent what our culture is all about,” Jones said. “We keep that momentum going (from last year) by putting in the work in practice.”
Junior outside hitter Bryton Bishop and sophomore middle blocker Heather Hamson have stepped up early in the season. The two-setter offense is directed by junior Abbie Miller and sophomore Chloie Brinton. Senior libero Alia Rasmussen anchors the back row.
The Vikings and the Knights meet three times this season, the first on Wednesday at Pleasant Grove.
And more than likely, one more time for the state title in November.
Box Elder won last year’s Class 5A title, upsetting two-time defending champion Bountiful 3-2 in the finals. The Bees are 3-0 so far this season with sweeps of Brighton, Bear River and Skyline and appear to be the team to beat. Skyridge finished fifth in last year’s state tournament and Deana Meyer returns some outstanding talent in senior setter/opposite Kaitlyn Standifird and senior outside hitter Kenadee Christensen. The Falcons are also competing in the Durango Fall Classic against some of the nation’s best programs.
Timpview has a new coach in Charmay Lee and is trying to regain the form that brought the school three straight 4A championships in four years under former mentor Kristen Bailey.
CLASS 4A Lehi, who finished sixth in last year’s 4A tournament, might be the valley’s best chance to field a contender in 2018. Former BYU standout Tambre Nobles will rely on seniors Maddie Lindsey — a first team All-State selection at outside hitter last season — middle blocker Lydia Montague and setter Marissa Page to help challenge southern powers Desert Hills and Snow Canyon along with defending state champion Park City.