Emeline Hudson wanted the ball.
The Lone Peak volleyball team was tied with Fremont after the first two sets and the third set was tight, with the Knights clinging to an 18-16 lead.
Hudson scored three straight times — two kills and a crafty tip — to push Lone Peak to a 21-16 lead and some breathing room. The Knights rode that momentum all the way to the finish, earning a 3-1 (25-24, 14-25, 25-20, 25-14) victory in the Class 6A State Tournament semifinals at Hillcrest High School on Friday.
“I just wanted every ball,” said Hudson, who tied teammate Lauren Jardine with 15 kills. “I knew that I wasn’t going to wait for other people to pick it up. I knew I had to do my job and if I was just paying attention to my job then we’d be good. I just had to focus on that and not get caught up in the moment.”
Lone Peak (28-2) — the No. 1 seed in the tournament — will face No. 3 seed Copper Hills in Saturday’s final, which begins at 10 a.m. at Hillcrest.
The Knights edged out Fremont 26-24 in Set 1, fighting off set point before Jardine fired down a kill for the winner. The Silverwolves — led by 6-foot-5 sophomore Maggie Mendelson — throttled Lone Peak 25-14 in the second set and Fremont (22-4) continued their fine play into the third set.
“We knew she was going to make swings,” Knights coach Reed Carlson said. “She’s just able to hit over people, hit hard and get kills. She had some crafty cross body stuff. At some point you just have to say that is just really good and say that’s a good swing. We made some adjustments with our timing in our blocking and recognized a few things. Once we made some adjustment we touched a lot more balls and forced her into roll shots and things she didn’t want to do.”
Meanwhile, the Lone Peak offense started to take off behind Hudson and Jardine, as well as strong play from Annie Taylor (10 kills) and Kinley Swan (7 kills, .416). Libero Grace Evans contributed 26 digs and Hannah Hawkins had five aces as the Knights rolled to the finish.
“At the beginning of the year, Emeline’s goal was to come in and be a starter,” Carlson said. “I just don’t know of anybody who’s worked quite as hard as her to become a more competent individual. The last two weeks her improvement has been off the charts.
“We’re typically calling out Lauren’s name. In today’s match I think Emeline took care of it. Lauren and Emeline have never really played their best volleyball on the same day together. For them to have those types of kills, it makes it so easy.”
The sports world is nothing if not poetic, so here’s the setup for the championship match: Copper Hills avenged last year’s state title loss to Pleasant Grove by beating the Vikings in Friday’s other semifinal. The team that knocked Lone Peak out in the semifinals last season?
None other than the Grizzlies, who sped to a sweep in that match and gave Lone Peak coach Reed Carlson his only loss in state tournament play since taking over in Highland in 2016.
“It’s going to be a great game,” Hudson said. “I’m glad Copper Hills won today just because of last year. I think we’re going to come out way better.”
Copper Hills 3, Pleasant Grove 2
The Pleasant Grove Vikings have been a particularly troublesome thorn in the side of the Copper Hills volleyball team.
Last year PG topped the Grizzlies 3-1 in the 6A title match, and earlier this season, the Vikings gave Copper Hills its only regular-season loss — a 3-0 sweep on the Grizzlies home floor back in September.
In Friday’s first Class 6A State Tournament semifinal, Pleasant Grove came out on fire but a rousing comeback by Copper Hills left the Vikings repeat dreams burning in a funeral pyre, finishing off a 12-25, 14-25, 26-24, 25-22, 16-14 victory.
Pleasant Grove won the first two sets easily, but the Grizzlies responded with wins in Set 3 and 4 to force a fifth set.
Vikings’ libero Avery Fowler served three straight aces to give PG a 9-4 lead in the fifth set and it was 12-7 after a Copper Hills hitting error. But once again, the Grizzlies rallied and scored seven straight to take a 14-12 lead to get to match point. A huge block from Heather Hamson and Chloie Brinton helped PG tie the score at 14-14. Copper Hills star Asiah Sopoaga tooled her hit off the block to get to match point again and Ellie Hutchings’ kill set off a mad celebration for Copper Hills and its fans.
“Copper Hills is a good team,” PG coach Kimberly Hawkey said. “They have heart and they are really scrappy. Hats off to them. It sucks (to lose), but they are a classy team.”
Pleasant Grove (27-4) won the first two sets in dominating fashion (25-12, 25-14) and appeared to be well on its way to another sweep. The Vikings block and defense behind that block seemed to have an answer for everything the Grizzlies threw at them. PG kept Sopoaga, Copper Hills’ leading hitter, held down but the Grizzlies found other answers with Pricilla Moleni and Lolohea Fonua, who both started to find holes in the Vikings blocking scheme.
“I think Copper Hills just started passing better on serve receive and that allowed them to get into system more,” Hawkey said. “The girls are so thankful that we get this opportunity to play because there is so much going on right now. For them to get to come and play, that’s awesome.”
The Vikings will say goodbye to three talented seniors, including leading hitter Mia Peterson, middle blocker Heather Hamson and Brinton.
“We can learn a lot from losing,” said Hawkey, who completed her first year as head coach. “Of course we had high expectations going into this season but I’m so proud of these girls. They are all just super commendable and very, very good girls. I’m proud of them and all they achieved this year.”