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Holladay Journal

Olympus boys volleyball prove to be state’s best

Jun 02, 2023 11:28AM ● By Catherine Garrett

The Olympus High boys volleyball team entered the state tournament May 5 as the No. 1 seed and they proved the rankings correct as the Titans hoisted the trophy at the end.

“It was an incredible feeling to win state and so special to share that moment with such a dedicated group of coaches and athletes,” said head coach Brett Peterson.

Olympus began the tournament with a 25-20, 25-12 win over Spanish Fork thanks to some big blocks and aggressive serving. In its quarterfinal match against Mountain Ridge, the Titans won 25-14, 25-16 with efficient hitting, including timely kills from senior middle blocker Eli “Bill” Stark and senior outside hitter JR Seiuli, and plan from the front line to shut down the Sentinels’ offense. In the semifinals against Copper Hills, Olympus won the first set 25-12 and fought through a tight second set with two aces each in the late stages by Stark and Seiuli to pull out a 25-23 victory and a spot in the championship match.

In the title game against Provo/Timpview T-Dawgs, the Titans showed its range of offensive options and won the first set 25-1. In set 2, Olympus started strong and then got down midway through before Stark “absolutely took over the match,” according to Peterson. Stark’s eight straight serves turned the momentum and gave the Titans a five-point lead. Three consecutive aces by the senior setter helped seal a 25-17 win and the state championship.

“Our middles [Stark and junior Soren Jepsen] were absolutely unstoppable, combining for 12 kills on a .688 hitting percentage,” Peterson said.

At state, Seiuli led the team with 35 kills and 11 aces with Kade Crayk running the offense with 61 assists. Stark and senior opposite hitter Miles Burningham did a little bit of everything on both ends while senior Libero Eli Nelson recorded 25 digs and Jepsen dominated at the net with 12 blocks.

“This year, we worked harder than we ever have before with this goal in mind, knowing that there was some incredible competition out there that we would have to measure up against,” Peterson said. “Winning the state title is a validation of all that effort, and it’s been so incredibly rewarding as a coach to see our boys push themselves and grow throughout the season on their way to an amazing finish. We’ve come so close a number of times over the last decade, but this year I can confidently state that we put more intentional effort behind it than any other team in Utah. We practiced harder, we played more matches, we put more effort into our game plans for each opponent, and ultimately, I think we wanted it a little more.”

Olympus came into the state tournament having defeated several of the top teams including Bingham, Syracuse, Skyridge, Farmington, Snow Canyon and Mountain Ridge. Its only loss was to No. 2 seed Pleasant Grove.

“There is something to be said for starting off a tournament knowing you can and have beat any of the teams out there as long as we play the way we know we’re capable of, which helped give us a lot of confidence,” Peterson said. “The last month of the season we also ran a unique lineup that let our best players play to their strengths. It was a different look than most teams are used to seeing, which helped us attack teams in ways that they aren’t used to defending. It did confuse a couple referees as well, but thankfully that didn’t end up costing us too many points.”

Also on the 32-1 team this season, that finished 25th nationally in the USA Today/AVCA boys high school rankings, were seniors Samuel Janzen, Reef Smylie and Damon Vasic; junior Torin Stewart; sophomores Yuse Jones and Tanner Nelson; and freshman Gabe Lincoln.

“We had a wealth of talent across the board this year that played fantastic volleyball all season long,” Peterson said. “We were lucky to have the full support of the Olympus administration this year as we move into sanctioned status, including the usage of the school gym for practices and a number of matches that we hosted at the school as well. In many ways it felt like this year was the transition year, as we got accustomed to practicing and playing at the school, and we also stepped up in a big way in terms of the amount of effort and energy that went into preparing for every match in front of us.”

Peterson, who was honored as one of this year’s American Volleyball Coaches Association’s Thirty Under 30 award winners, was assisted on the coaching staff by Ben Chamberlain, Taran Hall, Aaron Molesi, Stefen Lee San Diego, Jack Swain and Adrianna Labounty along with team managers Erianna Brown and Tiara Faletoi.

“One of the most important parts of the shift to sanctioned status is the importance of building a great pipeline of local talent,” Peterson said. “We’ll try to get a little more involved with the junior high programs and with youth volleyball in the area to see if we can increase the excitement around volleyball in the Olympus area and get some of the younger students excited about preparing for the newly sanctioned high school volleyball team.”λ