In a dominating performance rarely seen in the state tournament, the Morgan Trojans captured the 3A state volleyball championship last Thursday at the UCCU Center on the campus of Utah Valley University.
The state title was the third in a row for the Trojans, and 15th under head coach Liz Wiscombe. In all, Morgan High School has won 18 state volleyball championships. Because Rich High School lost to Panguitch in the 1A state title match on Saturday, MHS now stands alone with the most state championships in the history of Utah high school volleyball.
For Wiscombe, who has won 21 state titles as a coach, including six at Delta, the winning never gets dull.
“This one doesn’t feel different (than any of the others),” she said. “It’s as exciting as any because it’s always a different group of kids and there are different things you have to fight through. And these kids did it. It’s been a fun year.”
In the championship match, the Trojans whipped North Sanpete in straight sets, 25-11, 25-11, 25-21. The 21 points scored by the Hawks in the third set were the most given up by the Trojans in any game. In other words, it was total annihilation throughout the two-day tournament.
“I don’t know where these kids come from sometimes,” Wiscombe said. “They just dig deep and they’re just mentally tough. They love a challenge and they hit it head-on. I’m just proud of them. It’s been a tough year for some things, but they battled like crazy and here they are again.”
Senior Marcie Jo Stapley led the Trojans with 17 kills and two blocks against North Sanpete, while Baylee Loertscher added eight kills, nine digs and four service aces. Libero Hannah Farr contributed 16 digs, while Dani Wortman had 12 digs, three kills and four aces. Junior setter Ellee Anderson totaled 32 set assists, three aces, two blocks and a pair of digs. Sophomore Abbie Cox chipped in with three kills, and senior Brooke Loertscher added two kills and a block. The Trojans also got important contributions from seniors Beth Pobanz and Kendall Sommers.
For the whole tournament, Stapley recorded 62 kills, while Farr had 68 digs. Baylee Loertscher finished with 32 kills and 27 digs, and Wortman had 21 kills and 34 digs. Anderson finished with 125 set assists.
The manner in which the Trojans handled their opponents was particularly remarkable considering that three of their best players were dealing with significant injuries.
“We got kids out there that are really injured right now,” Wiscombe said. “But you wouldn’t know it by the way they played. That’s a true champion.”
Stapley ripped a tendon away from the bone near her right ankle toward the end of the regular season and played in the tournament despite a fair amount of pain. Brooke Loertscher fractured her foot about two weeks before the tournament, but played anyway.
“It was rough, I will admit that,” Stapley said of playing with the pain. “But my team has helped me a lot. They keep telling me, ‘You can do hard things; you can do this; we’ll push through it.’ And my coaches backed me 100 percent of the way; and my family has done everything they can to help me get ready for this. My adrenaline just took away the pain.”
And then there was Baylee Loertscher. The senior outside hitter suffered what appeared to be a hamstring injury on the first night of the tournament. How did her injury occur?
Earlier in the week Wiscombe mentioned that this team loved its music and loved to dance. That was made clear at the Texas Roadhouse near University Mall in Orem. The team went there for dinner after its first two wins against Carbon and Delta. As the story goes, the song Boot Scootin’ Boogie came on in the restaurant, so the girls joined in.
The dancing continued back at the hotel, where Baylee Loertscher – by her own admission not really a dancer – attempted to become one. She apparently tried to do the splits, and it did not go well.
“My injury was stupid,” Baylee said, laughing. “I thought I could do it, but I’m not born to dance and I’m not flexible at all.”
But the next day, trainers wrapped her right leg and she was back in the game, along with her injured teammates.
“It’s hard, but we just know that we have to fight through it,” Baylee said. “We know that we can fix it after (the tournament), so we just go out and play our game and hope for the best.”
Perhaps the Trojans’ toughest battle came in the semifinal round against Richfield. In that match, the Wildcats actually got to 20 points twice, but the Trojans still prevailed, 25-20, 25-10, 25-20. The victory showed that even against a team’s best effort, Morgan could not be stopped. What is it, then, about MHS volleyball that allows it to be so dominant?
“I think the love we have for our teammates and the love we have for our coaches really motivates us to do our best,” said Anderson, a junior who has finished as a state champion every year in high school.
For the players, every state title feels amazing.
“It’s insane,” said Anderson. “It gets better every single time, especially with the girls I’m playing with. It’s so fun all the time.”
“These are my girls,” Stapley added. “We’ve played club forever and have played together all throughout high school. It’s just an amazing experience to be with my girls and with my seniors to end on a win.”
“Words can’t describe how I feel right now,” said Farr, who was quick to credit her coaches for the team’s success. “It’s the coaches. Coach Wiscombe provides that for us. She prepares us so well.”
Next year’s team will definitely have a different look, as seven seniors will move on and two assistant coaches will not be back. Longtime assistant Julia Fisher will be leaving on an LDS mission with her husband, Craig, while Wiscombe’s son, Swish, will be (fingers crossed) heading off to medical school.
Wiscombe became emotional when talking about them.
“It’s hard because I really love these seniors,” she said. “I love every one of them. And my son and really good friend are both going to be gone and it’s going to be hard. But we’ll buck up, reload, and hopefully be back next year.”