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Union claims third 3A volleyball title in 3 years over Morgan

Union High School players celebrates their 3A volleyball state championship game against Morgan High at Utah Valley University in Orem on Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021.

Union High School players celebrates their 3A volleyball state championship game against Morgan High at Utah Valley University in Orem on Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

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Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

OREM — It would be an understatement to say that the Union and Morgan volleyball teams are familiar with each other.

In 2019, the two teams met in the 3A state championship match, where Union narrowly won the title in five sets.

The following year in 2020, Union, again, defeated Morgan, but did so in four sets.

The Cougars followed this same pattern when they met the Trojans for the third time in the 2021 3A state championship match Thursday at the UCCU Center. Union left with their third consecutive title in three straight sets (26-24, 25-17, 25-18).

"We said at the beginning of the game: The first year we beat them in five; the second we beat them in four; this year we want to beat them in three," senior outside hitter Kinslee Drake said.

"I think the biggest thing is that we care about our community and we wanted to leave a legacy. Our first year that we won state, we talked about how we were gonna leave a legacy, and now we want to keep continuing that legacy and leave that behind for other people in our community and those around us."

The history between the programs was evident through the first set as both teams traded points. The set saw 14 ties and eight lead changes with no team getting a larger lead than 3 points.

With the score 24-23, Morgan had a chance to claim the first set; but because of a block attempt that landed out of bounds, the set was tied and Union went on to score 2 straight points to go up 1-0.

All the Cougars needed was a single set to adjust to the adrenaline, the nerves and take control of the position they were now in.

"Once they came off their adrenaline, they had to play with some poise," Union head coach Analaine Mailoto said. "If you can do that, then it's a little easier to play with strategies."

"Winning (the first set) naturally just makes stress on the other team. … On the same note, even though we win doesn't mean you get to let up; you have to keep working hard," Mailoto added. "Every single point is gonna matter because most teams aren't just gonna stop."

Instead of trading points back-and-forth in the second set, Union found their rhythm early and got out to a commanding 10-2 lead, scoring 7 straight points, and never looked back.

The Trojans put up more of a fight to begin the third set, but after the Cougars went up 16-12, they extended the lead by scoring four straight, putting the game away.

Mailoto said it was ultimately the Cougars' discipline, commitment and love for each other that allowed them to claim their third straight title over a Morgan program who is accustomed to being in their position, having won four straight titles from 2015-18.

"One of our big things we talk about is being disciplined," Mailoto said. "You've got to be disciplined in practice, you've got to be disciplined in school, you've got to be disciplined as just good people."

"Our love for each other, I just don't think that there's anything that compares to it, "Drake added. "You could just see us out there, just knowing it's our last time to play together — that was absolutely everything."

Claiming the title closes Union's season with a historic streak; but more importantly, it caps off an emotional season that faced tremendous hardship.

"We've had a lot of trials this year; like our libero, she tore her ACL and her mom passed away. Her mom's name is Angie, so we called ourselves Angie's Angels, and we played for her every day," senior setter Kenisten Weaver said.

Weaver also faced her own set of injuries this season that removed her from playing for the past month, including a severe back injury. Through her faith and the support of her team, she was able to return to play a week before the state tournament — just in time to help lead her team to a state title.

The strength of the seniors, and the comradery, closeness, and trust of the Union team is what Mailoto said allowed her team to have a successful and drama-free season.

"I've never been in a championship game until our first year winning state," Mailoto said. "It's just been cool to see them, to be a part of it three times in a row."



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