Although the Kanab volleyball team did not bring home a state volleyball title, one thing is certain: the Kanab volleyball team did not go unnoticed!

Coming off a big win against Beaver a few days earlier, the girls were ready to take on #3 ranked San Juan. In years past, San Juan has proven themselves to be a powerhouse when it comes to volleyball, and more than once I’ve personally watched them breeze through round one and two of the state tournament, eliminating teams using nothing more than the intimidation factor. Rarely do they meet up with a team such as the Cowgirls, who refused to back down to anyone, no matter their ranking.

Match #1

Kanab vs. San Juan

The Cowgirls came out strong, quickly putting three points on the board due to smart offensive plays by both senior Savannah Cooper and sophomore setter Megan Buck. Then it was San Juan’s turn. They too battled to score, hitting around the Cowgirl block and aggressively serving deep to the backcourt. 

With the score Cowgirls 3, Broncos 2, the game heated up. Both teams fought hard, playing the net tight and accurately, as a series of exciting jousts resulted in points for both teams.

Midway through set one, senior Libero Kira Robison sprawled to the floor, upping an extremely hard hit from the Bronco middle blocker. Savannah Cooper quickly set up Robinson’s dig, sending the ball to sophomore power outside hitter Kaytee Glover, whose quick arm swing propelled the ball so hard it literally knocked the Bronco defender off her feet! This momentum builder led to several well executed plays from the Cowgirls as senior Kelsi Glover smartly hit through the Bronco block with great force.

It looked as though the Cowgirls would take the first set, but seasoned San Juan had other plans. Once they gained control of the serve, they intentionally frustrated the Cowgirls by serving seams in their receive rotation, and delivering an unpredictable pattern of float, spin and jump float serves to take the lead and finish off the first set, winning (25-17).  

The second set brought similar action to that of the first. It seemed neither team would allow the other to fully control the pace of the game as the score increased at a steady back and forth pace. However, late in the second set, the Broncos mixed things up, attacking the ball from the right side, rather than the traditional left side of the floor. Unprepared for such a switch, the Broncos pulled away from the Cowgirls, scoring a quick five points.

After a timeout, the Cowgirls made some adjustments, including substituting two amazing defensive specialists, sophomore Jani Ott and freshman Taiylor Bartlett. Kaytee Glover also proved to be an asset, as she showed her digging and passing skills in the back left court. Back in system, the Cowgirls once again did what they do best: Bring the heat! Hitters Kelsi Glover, Josie Orton, Kaytee Glover and Savannah Cooper combined with setter Megan Buck to tie the game 17-17.

From there it was anyone’s game. The Broncos found a weak area, hitting down the line to score two points consecutively. Still, the Cowgirls didn’t quit. They regained the serve, substituting senior Carley Barber, a power server, in hopes of frustrating the Broncos and stealing a quick point. In the end, the Cowgirls fell short (25-22), not due to heart or hustle, but simply inexperience at such a high level of play.

“Ditto” more than adequately describes the action in set three between the Cowgirls and the Broncos. Down two sets, it was “do or die” for the Cowgirls, as a third set loss would secure the match for the Broncos.

Of course, the Cowgirls knew this and came out strong. Savannah Cooper played the net like an animal, blocking hits, jousting tight balls, pounding overpasses back at the Broncos, and dumping any pass close to the net to the floor for a Cowgirl point. With the Cowgirls up 14-8, Bronco head coach Cassy Moon was forced to call a timeout, after which they came out swinging hard!

Freshman Taiylor Bartlett shined as she dug a series of difficultly placed spikes from the Broncos. Her efforts, along with other back row specialists, allowed setter Megan Buck offensive options at the net. Calli Jackson, a regular season starter, also contributed to the offensive drive by connecting with Megan Buck for a few non-returnable hits. Even freshman Jessika Houston served to win, when put in during a pressure situation. Chelsea Vreeken, senior right side player, also kept the Cowgirls in the game, picking up numerous hits from the Broncos. A spectacular effort was made when she was able to keep the ball from hitting the floor using the “pancake” skill. Her scrappy play ended in a side out for the Cowgirls. Unfortunately, the Broncos’ steady confidence and experience secured them a 25-22 win over the Cowgirls.

Match #2 Kanab vs. Millard

You know that feeling you get when you know you just don’t belong somewhere? Well, that’s how the Cowgirls felt as their loss to San Juan moved them to the consolation side of the bracket. Still frustrated after their close loss to the Broncos, the Cowgirls wanted to show everyone, including themselves, they deserved to be at the state tournament, playing with the best of the best. With this in mind, the Cowgirls won the flip to start match two of their state volleyball journey.

As they stepped onto the court to face the Millard Eagles, setter Megan Buck took charge serving eight straight points. Any returned serve from the Eagles was smoothly and accurately passed to the setter who teamed up with front row hitters to quickly attack the Eagles.

Kelsi Glover smashed the ball numerous times until Millard was forced to not only call for a timeout, but to substitute several back row players. This change proved ineffective as the Cowgirls continued to dominate the Eagles. In one offensive series, Calli Jackson hit the ball so forcefully that the Eagle player attempting to dig it was literally knocked to the floor. As for the Cowgirls defense, it too held strong. Savannah Cooper penetrated the net, stuff blocking nearly every Eagle attempt to score. The few times the ball did cross to the Cowgirl side, defensive specialists effortlessly passed the ball to setter Megan Buck, who smartly ran a variety of quick offense plays, ending the first set with a Cowgirl win 25-7.

Set two appeared to be a repeat of set one, as the Cowgirls came out hitting hard! It was clear the Cowgirls would take set two, as the Eagles appeared to have lost all momentum and will to win. Knowing volleyball is a game of momentum, the Cowgirls were determined not to allow the Eagles’ lack of it to damper their game. Instead, they decided to use the game as an opportunity to continue to improve, running difficult offensive plays, and mixing up defensive locations. Even younger players were substituted to allow them invaluable state tournament playing time to develop their skills and build the KHS volleyball program. 

Every Cowgirl player had the opportunity to feel what it’s like to play in a state tournament, a luxury the program hasn’t enjoyed for years. At the end of set two, the Cowgirls defeated the Eagles 25-17. 

In set three, the Cowgirls were again determined to maintain their intensity and use the game to perfect a variety of offensive and defensive plays. Sophomore Misty Reidhead served a hard top spin serve, resulting in an Eagles’ free ball. Wisely, sophomore Megan Buck set up a quick six for teammate Calli Jackson, scoring a quick point for the Cowgirls. Savannah Cooper also added points for the Cowgirls as she connected with Megan for a quick one hit, and eventually ended the rally with a hard cross court slide shot. Kelsi Glover, who switched to power outside from middle blocker, contributed to the offensive run, putting down three hard hits.

Sophomores Kaytee Glover and Josie Orton were also contributors in the outside hitter position. Both Cowgirls did an excellent job mixing up the offense, reading the block and hitting the line when the Eagle defense shifted.

Sophomore Mollee Jacobs also added a couple points hitting from the right side, but it was her defensive efforts on the back row that truly aided the Cowgirls’ victory over the Eagles 25-14.

Match #3

Cowgirls vs. South Sevier 

Next up, the Cowgirls took on region 14’s #2 seed, the South Sevier Rams, who were upset in round one by the Waterford Ravens. Although, the Cowgirls started the match in receive, Savannah Cooper quickly secured the serve by pounding a hard cross court shot to the back court line. Setter Megan Buck served a deep float to the back corner, resulting in a Ram shank and a Cowgirl point. The Cowgirls continued to bring the heat, pulling away from the Rams for what appeared to be a secure win.

 With the score Kanab 16, South Sevier 10, it seemed the Cowgirls were moments from taking set one, when the Rams called timeout. The Rams returned to the court fired up. They quickly took control of the serve and began pounding the ball at the Cowgirls. It didn’t take long before the score was tied up 18-18. Both teams continued to hustle, but in the end the Cowgirls dropped the first set to the Rams 18-25.

Set two and three were all about hustle. After two long days of playing, both teams were fighting fatigue. Although, the Cowgirls never quit, they eventually were overtaken by the Rams 15-25, 13-25. 

It was clear to all in attendance KHS volleyball is on the rise. With the current roster loaded with young talent, next year is sure to be just as exciting. Thanks to all the parents, players, fans, KHS student body and coaches for making this season so memorable.