Story and photos by Kurt Johnson
HIGHLAND – There’s not much the Lehi High volleyball team does not do well. The Pioneers have established themselves as one of the favorites in Class 5A this season largely because they are led by a group of talented seniors that has become accustomed to success.
Thursday night, Lehi was at Lone Peak, a team that has traditionally been both a front-runner in Region 4 and among the state’s elite programs. While this season has been a bit of a rebuilding campaign for the Knights, the matchup always creates a great deal of energy.
The Pioneers stumbled a bit in the second set, but even that was not enough to keep them from sweeping the home team in three games, 25-12, 25-22, 25-17.
The serving game of Mikayla Upham got Lehi off to a hot start in the first game, and the Pioneers rode the big swings from Rylin Roberts, Amber Lamborn and Upham to build that advantage. Strong service runs started by Upham, Sydney White and Rachel Richards helped Lehi survive a strong first-game hitting performance by Lone Peak’s Makayla Pollard.
The first set set another major trend that continued the entire night. The digging was spectacular, with the liberos leading the way. Lehi’s Sydney White put on a digging and passing clinic, getting to everything and delivering precision passing after taking hits at high speed from all sorts of angles. Lone Peak libero Madelyn Olson also delivered on numerous opportunities to keep balls alive on the Knights’ side of the net.
After a combo block by Marta Ellsworth and Lamborn closed out that first set 25-12 for Lehi, the second took on a very different look. Aided by strong net play from Kacie Huntsman, Ally Anderson, Mikayla Coston and Hikialani Kaohelaulii, the Knights opened a lead as large as six points (at 17-11) in Game 2.
A Faith Crabb kill got Lehi back within five points at 20-15, and then Roberts stepped to the service line for four straight points that tightened things up considerably. After a side-out got the Knights the service for one point, it was White’s turn to serve and she almost served out the set.
The senior libero took the ball with the score 19-21 and after an ace and a run led by Richards and Ellsworth, she did not give it up until the Pioneers were up 24-21 and sitting on set point.
A Coston block bought Lone Peak a one-point reprieve, but then it was that same duo that put the game away, with Richards setting Ellsworth the set-winning point.
Set 3 really went back and forth quite a bit, but while Lone Peak never seemed to be able to win back-to-back points, the Pioneers strung points together a few times and that was the difference. There was a little Upham here and a nice dump by Richards there, but Roberts was particularly impressive in the close-out set. At one point, the senior blasted what looked like a sure kill onto the Lone Peak side of the net, but Olson was there for the dig, sending the ball back over the net where Roberts was waiting. She elevated again for another huge swing and buried the ball into the court.
When she wasn’t blasting away, Roberts put her whole game on display, with cross-court hits, swings down the line and even a couple of nice touch shots.
Next up for the Region 4-leading Pioneers (4-0 in Region 4, 15-5 overall) is a home date with second-place Pleasant Grove (4-1, 16-5) Tuesday night, while the Knights (2-2. 3-9) have a critical battle for positioning in the league standings when they visit American Fork (2-2, 5-5).