OREM — The 3A State Volleyball Tournament at Utah Valley University’s McKay Events Center is an amazing exhibition of tightly controlled chaos.
When the teams open serve at 9 a.m. Friday morning, volleyballs seemingly will be flying everywhere. In a three-hour time period, 16 teams will complete eight matches on four courts in one huge arena. A casual observer would have his head spinning.
But the same thing that seems so chaotic, is incredibly compelling. A modified double-elimination tournament will see eight teams have a loss by noon. By 1:30 p.m., two more will have losses and two teams will be headed home. By 3 p.m. Friday afternoon, four of the tourney’s 16 teams will have been eliminated, eight more will have one loss and four teams will be riding high with no losses in the loser’s bracket.
By Saturday afternoon, around 3:30, two teams will have emerged from the chaos as the very best. The championship match will pit those two against each other at 5:30 p.m.
And while chaos seems to be the way of things, it’s all very organized. And it’s all Desert Hills’ for the taking.
The top-ranked Thunder, defending state champs who have rarely lost a game, much less a match, this season are the favorites to win it all again. Coached by Jill Swaney and led by star Blair Bliss, Desert Hills has been phenomenal in 2013. The Thunder, 18-3, ran the table in Region 9, recording a perfect 12-0 record. Along the way, they lost just one game, to rival Snow Canyon. DH still won that Oct. 10 match in four and have been the top-rated team all year.
“My team is a real team,” Swaney said. “They share the spotlight, celebrate each others’ successes and play well together. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing Hurricane or Horizon Elementary, if you can’t control your side of the net, can’t beat anybody.”
Along with Bliss, the team-oriented Thunder also feature setter Alexa Goulding and kill specialist Sammi Loe.
Desert Hills will face Park City in the 9 a.m. match and will likely get Bear River in the second round. The Thunder likely won’t be really tested until a scheduled 10:30 a.m. contest Saturday morning against what looks like Region 10 champ Morgan. The Lady Trojans finished third last year and won the state title in 2011. Morgan is 16-4 and ranked second in Utah’s 3A classification. Morgan opens with Region 9 fourth seed Dixie at 9 a.m.
“They’re always tough,” Swaney said. “They’re well-coached. But I think some of our toughest competition will come from Region 9 teams.”
Hurricane is having a great year and if not for the powerful Thunder, would have won the region. The Lady Tigers finished 10-2 in Region 9, with both losses coming to Desert Hills.
“The Tigers are going to be tough, and no one better count out Snow Canyon,” Swaney said.
Hurricane, 20-7 overall, starts off with a 10:30 a.m. tilt vs. Union.
As for the Lady Warriors, SC is not that far removed from the five straight state championships from 2006 to 2010. They are young this year, led by sophomore Alexsa “Crash” Parker. Snow Canyon went 8-4 in region play, but couldn’t break through against DH and Hurricane. The Warriors scored a total of just five fewer points in losing two matches to the Tigers this season and scored just seven fewer points than DH in that 3-1 loss three weeks ago.
But the inability to finish close matches have sent SC to the third seed, which means having to beat a two seed (Uintah) and two No. 1-seeds (North Sanpete, Tooele) or perhaps two-seed Hurricane just to get to the state championship game, where the Lady Thunder will likely be waiting.
SC, 11-8, will need to get hot to win it all, as will Dixie, which went 6-6 in region and 12-8 overall, starts off with the aforementioned 9 a.m. match vs. powerful Morgan. A win would likely give the Lady Flyers a match with Carbon, with D-Hills probably waiting for them in the semifinals.
The state tournament will feature the fifth/seventh-place game at p.m. on Court 4 and the sixth/eight-place game also at 2 p.m. on Court 3. The third/fourth-place game is at 3:30 p.m. on Court 3 with the championship match at 5:30 p.m. on Court 3.
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- UHSAA 3A State Volleyball Bracket via UHSAA.org
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