According to GCHS coach Deb Hren, the Lady Devils’ varsity team was seeded in the 16-team upper platinum division, based on how they did at the event last year.
Grand lost its first match on Aug. 23 to region rival Emery, falling in two games, 25-22 and 25-21.
“It just took us too long to get moving,” Hren said.
Highlights of the game included GCHS senior Tiffanie Whipple’s nine service points in the first game and sophomore Sydney Lema’s strong serving in the second game.
After the loss to Emery, the Lady Devils bounced back with wins over Millard, 25-21 and 25-19. A match against Juan Diego wrapped up Friday’s pool play. Despite playing what coach Hren said was their best match of the night, the Lady Devils lost to Juan Diego in two sets, 25-21 and 25-22. Junior Brook Schultz had two service aces and junior Kasey Betts had three solo blocks in that contest, Hren said.
Finishing 1-2 in Friday’s play put the Lady Devils into the consolation platinum bracket on Saturday, Aug. 24.
Grand started off Saturday morning with a win over 3A Manti in two straight sets. Hren said “incredible” serving and setting by senior Jessica Valdes was a major factor in the victory. Valdes recorded six service aces during the match, Hren said.
Next, the Lady Devils faced off against 3A Carbon, but lost in two sets.
“We just couldn’t find our groove and keep it during this match,” Hren said, adding that junior Cammy Beeman tried to keep the team in the game with some solid serve receives and digging.
The Lady Devils rebounded to defeat Beaver in their next match, 25-22 and 25-16. Valdes had three service aces and Lema recorded 10 kills.
That win resulted in a three-way tie among Beaver, Grand and Carbon. The tie was broken by adding up the points scored against each team. Because the Lady Devils had the fewest points scored against them, they were seeded first from their pool into the bracket finals.
In the bracket quarterfinals, Grand defeated 2A Waterford in two sets, 25-18 and 25-20. Lema led the way with seven service points, while senior Shailee Croasmun added six. In the bracket semifinals, Grand beat Beaver again in two sets, setting up a championship game against the San Juan Broncos. The Lady Devils won that match in two sets, 25-23 and 25-23, to take first in the platinum consolation bracket.
“Overall, if I had to pick an ‘all-tourney’ athlete, I would give it to Jessica Valdes,” Hren said. “She served strong, played very impressive defense and set very consistently.”
Grand’s junior varsity team also attended the tournament, competing in a separate JV-level bracket. The Lady Devils’ JV team, which went up against larger schools such as Desert Hills and Union, ended up finishing 12th out of the 18 JV teams in attendance, Hren said.
She said the tournament was a good way to start off the season.
“I am really excited about the year,” Hren said. “I have been very impressed with the work ethic and level of play we are at so early in the season. We have a few players working through injuries, but everyone is battling hard.”
Hren said Lema, who played club volleyball throughout the off-season, has come back very strong. Betts and fellow junior Lexi Risenhoover, also give this year’s team some much-needed height as middle blockers and right-side hitters, Hren added.
Hren called Valdes “our team player out there directing traffic and providing much needed info about the team on the other side.”
“[Valdes] can play about anywhere I need her to play,” Hren said.
Hren said Whipple, a senior outside hitter and middle blocker, is quick to the ball. “She is always very consistent with digging and passing,” the coach added.
Hren also praised junior setter Brook Schultz’s quickness to the ball and said Schultz is particularly skilled at setting the ball high and outside.
Hren added that Shailee Croasmun and her younger sister Talaunee, a freshman, have also brought consistent all-around play in multiple areas, including setting, defense, serving and passing. The sisters recently moved to Moab from the Price area.
Hren also said senior Haley Rice and junior Cammy Beeman are expected to bring needed toughness in the back row with their digging and passing. Junior Kesley Backus and sophomore Kwincey Wells are also ready to come off the bench and provide strong support, according to Hren.
“As a coach, it is really comforting to have a deep bench, not just in numbers of players, but in their level of play as well,” Hren said.
Hren added that the team has a talented group of underclassmen, including several returning sophomores and five new freshmen.
This Friday and Saturday, Aug. 30-31, Grand’s sophomores and freshmen will travel to Blanding to compete in a junior varsity tournament, the San Juan Invitational.
The Lady Devils’ first varsity home contest of the season will be their homecoming match against Monticello, scheduled for 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 3.