There was no doubt Region 11 left its mark at the 4A state volleyball championship.
Four teams finished among the top seven in the classification with Green Canyon capturing the title late Wednesday evening in Orem on the campus of Utah Valley University. The Wolves were co-region champs with Sky View.
Having dropped their final match of the regular season to share the region title with their neighbors to the north, the Wolves were able to refocus on the ultimate goal — a state championship.
Green Canyon entered the state tournament with first-year head coach Madison Larsen at the helm. The team came up with the theme of “No Doubt” for the 2019 season and reaffirmed it before heading south to Orem. The Wolves were on a mission.
“We just has a no doubt mentality like we have this whole season,” GC’s Olivia Chadwick said. “We went and gave it our all.”
Larsen may be a first-year head coach, but has plenty of state playoff experience. She was on Sheila Sorensen’s staff at Sky View last year when the Bobcats won the championship. Larsen, who was Maddie Day back in 2012, also won a state title as a star player for the Bobcats.
“State is all about mental toughness and confidence,” Larsen said. “Every team here has earned there way here and nobody comes planning to lose. It’s the team that doesn’t lose that confidence that they are going to win. Our team did an amazing job of staying confident. ... There was no doubt they were going to go win even in the hard moments. They stayed together. I’m so proud of them.”
The positive vibes from the coach definitely rubbed off on the players.
“We wanted to leave it all out on the court,” GC’s Sabree Adams said. “We wanted to give it everything we’ve got because this as the last chance we had (as seniors). We didn’t want any regrets.”
“We just wanted to go out hard and have fun,” GC’s Madilyn Miles said. “... This feels great.”
Green Canyon beat Desert Hills Wednesday evening in the championship match in four sets, 25-12, 27-25, 18-25, 25-23. There were many touching moments during the celebration that followed, including former Sky View and Green Canyon head coach Malayna Knowles giving Larsen a big hug. Knowles coached Larsen at Sky View and began the program at Green Canyon when the school opened three years ago.
The Wolves were certainly determined to go out as champs. They fought back from deficits to start both of their matches on Tuesday, dropping the first set against Crimson Cliffs before winning three in a row and then rallying from a 2-1 deficit against region foe Ridgeline. Beating the Riverhawks in five, including a wild 16-14 fifth set helped Green Canyon prepare for the final day.
“We have a very tough region and that showed,” Larsen said. “I really feel Ridgeline goes far if we don’t face them in the second round. I’m grateful for our region being very tough because it prepared us for these hard games we faced.”
In the semifinals, the Wolves were even at 1-1 with Dixie, then took the next two sets in convincing fashion to reach the championship. Once there, Green Canyon was determined to leave it all out on the court against Desert Hills, who had knocked off defending state champ Sky View in five.
“We were really ready to play,” Miles said. “It was a little nerve wracking, but it was good. We just wanted to kill it really bad.”
“When we played Ridgeline, that really pushed us,” Adams said. “We wanted to play as good in the championship as we played against them. When we beat Dixie in the semifinals, that really pushed us.”
The Wolves pounced early in the first set Wednesday night. They never trailed in the first set and won easily.
“That was a great start,” Larsen said. “One of the goals they set for the game was they wanted to start strong. We used our emotions in the right way and just kept attacking and kept playing defense. You couldn’t ask for a better start than that.”
Six different Wolves registered a kill in the opening set. Chadwick led the way with six finishers.
“We worked so hard to get where we were and it was really fun,” Chadwick said.
While the second set was much more competitive, Green Canyon still came out on top. But the Wolves were well aware that the Thunder had dropped the first two sets in the semifinals against the Bobcats, only to come back and win.
Desert Hills never trailed in the third set and held a 10-point lead late. Green Canyon suffered a bit a blow when senior Jacie Walker went down early in the third with an injury. Walker did eventually return to action in the fourth for the Wolves.
“We were worried, but then when she came back in we got really excited,” Miles said.
Green Canyon didn’t flinch as the two schools seeking a state title headed to the fourth.
“We came out and had no doubt in our team work and our chemistry; we knew we could do it,” GC’s Shante’ Falslev said. “... We knew that no matter what they did, we were going to be able to control our side and have no doubt in our abilities.”
The Thunder continued having the momentum jumping out to a 4-0 lead. However, this time the Wolves responded with a 9-2 run to take the lead. They would not give that up, building an advantage of 16-10. Desert Hills did fight back to tie it at 23-23, but a kill from Miles brought the Green Canyon faithful to their feet. An error by the Thunder ended it.
“We just wanted to do it for our school and our teammates,” Adams said. “Knowing that this was for everyone made a huge difference.”
The volleyball state title is the first for the school in any sport.
“I think that we have started a legacy with us being a new school,” Chadwick said. “It was fun and I hope we can keep building on that.”
“We wanted to start a legacy when the school opened,” Adams said. “I’m so glad we got this because now everyone else at the school knows they can also do that.”
“This is so big,” Falslev said. “I’m so excited.”
The Wolves once again had a balanced attack. Seven players had a kill, while five had seven or more. Chadwick led the way with 14 kills. Six athletes were also in on blocks, as Miles led the way with five and Chadwick and Adams had four each.
“That’s what I love about our team is they all do it together,” Larsen said. “There is not one person who has to carry us. They all know they can depend on each other. I love that about our team.”
For six seniors, Wednesday night was the end of high school volleyball. Miles, Paige Tuckey, Walker, Adams, Falslev and Kaitlin Compton went out on top.
“There is such great leadership on this team,” Larsen said. “They all buy in and they all trust each other. It has been great.”
And the future is bright at starting setter Sarah Blau returns with Chadwick and fellow junior Alivia Longhurst, who saw playing time.