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The City Journals

Grizzlies take second at state volleyball tournament

Dec 14, 2020 03:24PM ● By Greg James

Copper Hills has finished in the state’s top five for six years in a row. (Greg James/City Journals)

By Greg James |  [email protected] 

Copper Hills volleyball players were disappointed their season did not end with a championship, but with today’s worldwide challenges, they will take their second-place trophy.

“It is hard to talk about a loss.,” Grizzlies head volleyball coach Silver Fonua said. “We had higher expectations, but I can see a lot of the accomplishments we had. It was a great season for us.”

Headed into the 2020 season the Grizzlies hoped to take the next step towards a state championship. They thought that this was their year. A senior-laden team wanted to accomplish what no Salt Lake County school had done since Brighton won in 2006: win the Utah High School Activities Association’s top classification trophy.

Copper Hills avenged last season’s final loss to Pleasant Grove in thrilling fashion. Down two sets to none, the Grizzlies stormed back to advance to the Saturday final. A powerful Lone Peak squad had other plans and defeated them in four sets (25-18, 20-25, 25-18, 25-23).

“Getting to a 6A final again and the things we have accomplished this is by far the best season,” Fonua said. “I am happy and proud of what we have done and how we have represented Copper Hills. If anything, I am grateful that we were able to finish the season. I am proud and happy that the Utah High School Association and Jordan School District did their best and kept fighting to keep sports going.”

The finals match was full of ups and downs for the Grizzlies. In the first set, Copper Hills went up 4-1 before Lone Peak stormed back. The second set was completely opposite. Fonua said his team was focused on each and every point and not the momentum that found itself in the gym that day.

“At higher levels, the great teams play one point at a time,” he said. “Each serve we had to separate ourselves from the emotion. They did a great job serving, and we had a tough time passing. They did a good job against us.” 

The back-row defenders for the Grizzlies did a good job of keeping the ball alive. Randi Reeves led that charge by getting to many of the difficult Knights serves.

“I think she (Reeves) is the best libero in the state,” Fonua said. “Nobody really knew about her. She stepped in this year. She is the reason we hit so well. She digs and passes and gives our hitters opportunities to put away a ball.”

Priscilla “Baby” Moleni and Lolohea Fonua played important roles as opposite side blocker and hitter. Senior setter Teniyah Leuluai record 22 assists. 

“Teniyah is probably the best setter in the state,” Fonua said. “We lose several seniors, and they will be hard to see go, but I feel confident in the players we can plug in and be successful. This senior class is the best we have had in our short tradition. We have a lot that could play college ball if they take the opportunity.”

Asiah and Aliyah Sopoaga, senior twins, played all-around strong games in the finals match. Asiah had 11 kills; Aliyah had 11 digs.

“Asiah is an outside hitter, and Aliyah is a setter, and they play their particular positions and are very good,” Fonua said. “I think they can do everything. They work their butt off. They spend the offseason training, and it makes them better all-around. It has been a blessing to have them in our gym.”

Sophomore Mya Laufiso showed poise in her 20 service attempts with only one service error and two aces.

“She (Mya) is the youngest player on our team and comes from a great family,” Fonua said. “Her older sister played for us, and she has watched the game. She is advanced beyond what a sophomore normally is. She is fearless.” 

Junior Elle Hutchings is a two-year starter and had a tremendous game with seven kills.

“She (Hutchings) has worked really hard,” Fonua said. “I think there is a lot of pressure on her. She has accepted that challenge. She is undersize and is banging balls against bigger and taller girls. She has learned and is one that never gets too high or too low; she just works.” 

The gym for the championship game was filled two-thirds with Copper Hills fans.

“It is a family, and we represent the community,” Fonua said. “We felt their support. We had great support from our students and even the sub-varsity players. They have watched us go and become the top dogs. They can relate. It was memorable to come out of the hallway and feel the cheers. This team has brought together this community. We look like the underdog.”