The Salem Hills volleyball team knew Region 8 rival Park City needed just one more set to end Thursday’s 5A state quarterfinal match at the UCCU Center in Orem, so the Skyhawks were giving everything they had in the fourth set.
Salem Hills had seen the Miners erase its late lead but the Skyhawks set up an attack with a 26-25 lead. Instead of being able to put the ball down, however, a Park City blocker sent the ball back to the empty far corner and appeared to have tied things up again.
But the referee had spotted a violation: the Miner blocker was a back-row player, making her touch of the ball illegal.
The call meant Salem Hills was awarded the point, ending the fourth set and giving the Skyhawks an edge they used to pull away for the dramatic 3-2 (22-25, 25-17, 17-25, 27-25, 15-10) win.
“They are an awesome team and it was a fun match — but it was very nerve-wracking,” Salem Hills head coach Kathy Treanor said. “I’ve told our girls that they have something special. They are super-bonded. They really work hard for each other. One of our coaches said that our team has grit like no other team. We don’t quit and we just find a way.”
Skyhawk senior libero Hailee Oldroyd said the quick change of that key point was “weird” but boosted her team at a crucial moment in the match.
“Everyone was like, ‘It’s OK, it’s OK, we’ll just get the next one’ — and then it was like, ‘Heck, yeah! We’re going to the fifth set,’” Oldroyd said. “It was awesome. It gave us straight motivation going into it. I think they got down after that.”
Oldroyd played a big role in keeping the Salem Hills momentum rolling in the deciding frame, getting a few key digs to keep rallies going. She finished with 29 digs for the match.
“She is solid,” Treanor said. “She is the best kid in the world off the court and on the court she is even better. She is all about the team and 100% positive. She is such a hard worker. She’s a senior and we’re going to miss her deeply. She holds us together.”
As a senior, Oldroyd said that getting the victory and advancing to the final day of action is particularly sweet.
“I’m so excited,” Oldroyd said. “We’re going to get it done. We are in the Final Four right now, so we’ve got to keep pushing hard.”
With the win, the Skyhawks advanced to face No. 1 seed Farmington in the 5A semifinals Saturday morning at 10 a.m. with a spot in the championship match on the line.
“This is where we want to be,” Treanor said. “This is big for us.”
The second 5A semifinal will be an all-Utah Valley battle from Region 7 as Mountain View and Lehi both won their two matches on Thursday — although the Bruins also needed five sets to do it.
Second-seeded Mountain View had to overcome an impressive showing from No. 10-seed Maple Mountain to get through to the semifinals.
The match was tied at 12-12 in the fifth set but the Bruins scored three straight points on a kill, an ace and a block to close out the 3-2 (17-25, 25-14, 25-17, 24-26, 15-12) victory.
“It was super-exciting,” Mountain View head coach Jaicee Roden said. “At that point, you look at the girls and say, ‘you know what to do so just finish it.’”
A big key for the Bruins in the final deciding frame was that they avoided giving away any points on errors.
“We have been working on earning points and minimizing errors,” Roden said. “We did some really good things. We controlled the serve game, which put us in the driver’s seat. Our outsides did a good job executing, while we also had freshmen come in and did well in that environment.”
Even though the Golden Eagles were unable to get the win, Maple Mountain head coach Amanda Petersen said her team had plenty to be proud of.
“They played incredibly today,” Petersen said. “Our defense was unstoppable at not letting the ball hit the ground. All of our hitters were hitting positively. This was the most consistent we have been all year. They came to play today and did an incredible job.”
Two Region 7 teams squared off in the other 5A quarterfinal as No. 3 seed Timpview faced No. 6 seed Lehi.
The Pioneers roared in front as they won the first two sets but the Thunderbirds rallied in Set No. 3 and led 14-7 midway through the fourth set.
“I told them that they had to play in the present,” Lehi head coach Tambre Nobles said. “Outside hitter Haylee Holker was serving and she focused on what she could do in that moment, which was serving. That helped us make a nice run and brought us back.”
The two teams seesawed back and forth until the frame was tied at 23-23. The Pioneers then sealed the game by scoring two straight to get the 3-1 (27-25, 25-21, 14-25, 25-23) win.
“I’m really proud of the girls,” Nobles said. “All year we have focused on playing together. In the third set we started playing apart but in the fourth we started fighting together and building confidence. That made all the difference. Everyone filled their roles.”
She said being able to close it out without needing a fifth set was a relief.
“It’s a lot of pressure for kids but they rose to the occasion,” Nobles said. “It was really impressive. It shows heart and grit.”
Now Lehi and Mountain View get ready for another Region 7 rematch in the 5A semifinals on Saturday at 10 a.m.
“Recovering from today will be key,” Nobles said. “We will work at getting better on Friday and stay focused on what is next. I want them to stay hungry and see how good we can be.”
The 5A consolation rounds will take place Friday, while the 5A semifinals and championship matches will be on Saturday. All games will be played at the UCCU Center in Orem.
For complete details, go to http://UHSAA.org.