Mountain Ridge volleyball looking for encore after highly successful 2022 campaignSep 07, 2023 03:23PM ● By Josh McFadden
Last season, Mountain Ridge Sentinels were oh, so close to bringing home a state title. So what does the team do this season on the heels of such a successful year?
“Expectations for every year are extremely high,” head coach Bryan Nicholson said. “We don’t lower our expectations and goals because we are a different team than last year’s runner-up squad. We expect our team to work hard, get better every day by practicing hard and compete with whomever our opponents may be.”
Last year’s team went 15-3 overall and won Region 3 by going 7-1. At state, the Sentinels reached the Class 6A state title game, falling just short by losing to Lone Peak 3-1. The 2023 version is excited for the new year and new opportunities. However, Nicholson will have to do it with a largely different group of girls than he had a year ago.
But he remains optimistic that the Sentinels will once again perform well and have a chance to compete at a high level each day. Also, the fact that there are some new pieces this season isn’t worrying Nicholson. Rather, he is eager to see what the girls can do and how effectively they can work together.
“I’m most excited about seeing how this new team begins to work together and find their place,” he said. “There are a lot of new pieces at work from last year’s team, and it’s exciting to see them gain experience as the season gets going.”
Nicholson said the team excels at serving and setting. The Sentinels have some powerful hitters as well. It isn’t just the team’s starters whom he will count on to contribute. One of the best things about the team, he said, are the reserve players and how everyone on the squad has a positive attitude.
“We also have role players that understand how important their jobs are and that without their contributions, the team can’t be as successful,” he said. “We also have some scrappy ‘big dogs’ playing great defense on the back row.”
Nicholson said every player on the team “is a main player.” But he did single out some returning players from last year, namely junior outside hitter Addyson Cook, junior setter Sadie White and junior Allie Grossenbach.
Following a season as successful as last season’s might not be easy, but Nicholson said the girls are up for the challenge. Some preseason matches and good practices have helped to solidify positions and get the girls familiar with one another.
“The challenges the team faces are obviously the high standard of play that last year’s team set and the inexperience that half our team has at the varsity level,” he said. “We have been able to work on getting that experience this preseason and our Vegas Tournament by getting younger girls lots of reps and playing with lineups.”
Mountain Ridge has gotten off to a good start this season, winning its first two games. Mountain Ridge opened the year with a 3-0 sweep of Cedar Valley on Aug. 10 and then breezed past Woods Cross 3-0 on Aug. 15. The first region match is Sept. 12.
“Regardless of our record, this season is a success if we are gaining experience, getting better every day in order to be playing our best in November and having fun while competing,” Nicholson said. “We are the defending region champs, so you’re crazy if you don’t think my girls want to defend that title.”
Nicholson is also appreciative of the way the players’ parents, school and community have rallied around the team.
“Just want to thank our parents, community and student body fans for all their continued support of our program, and we look forward to continuing to make Mountain Ridge volleyball a top 6A program,” he said. λ