6A boys volleyball: Pleasant Grove runs away from Lone Peak to win inaugural championship

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OREM — Pleasant Grove was the very first team to compete in a sanctioned boys volleyball match in March.

On Saturday night, they were the last team standing with a trophy.

After a back-and-forth war of attrition through the first two sets, the Vikings exploded to finish off the Lone Peak Knights 25-22, 23-25, 25-18, 25-15 Saturday night at the UCCU Center.

"We were just determined to win today," middle blocker Aki Malietoa said. "That's what got us the win — we just trained hard and just continued loving this sport."

Both teams brought that determination early; the first set featured 12 ties and four lead changes, with Pleasant Grove scoring the final 3 points after it was tied 22-22. Lone Peak answered in the second to tie the match 1-1 after the Vikings had tied the set at 20-20 while trailing by as many as 5 points.

But at 9-8 in the third set, Pleasant Grove head coach Dave Neeley signaled for a timeout.

The message was simple: "Dig deep and fight hard," Malietoa said, with Neeley adding it was a time to remind the team that they could "take control" of the match.

The Vikings thus answered with the next 6 points to make it 15-8, and the match was never competitive again, even as Lone Peak head coach Cecil Read tried desperately to stop the bleeding.

"They just came back during every timeout believing they had it," Neeley said. "They just brought it to another level this week, physically, mentally, and emotionally."

It also helps when you're having fun, like outside hitter Brayden Thomas was. Thomas ended the fourth set and the match on a rocket that Lone Peak couldn't keep alive, triggering a mosh pit on Pleasant Grove's side of the court.

"We just had to reel in our setting a little bit," Thomas said. "Once we did that, we got them out of system and created the tempo we wanted."

The crowd inside the UCCU Center — especially those wearing predominantly Pleasant Grove blue and white — also felt the shift in the tempo midway through the third.

It reached a fever pitch in the fourth set, when Pleasant Grove grew it into a 10-point lead at 20-10 for the first time all night and Lone Peak coach Cecil Read decided to empty the bench in lieu of the deficit.

Soon enough, the fans were celebrating with the players as the trophy was presented.

"There were several times throughout the match I just looked up and smiled (at the fans)," Neeley said. "It's so great to see our Pleasant Grove family show up."

It also means more in the Neeley family, as well. Dave's brother, former BYU women's volleyball assistant Jonny Neeley, began his career at Pleasant Grove as an assistant, which Dave Neeley said was the impetus for him to reach out about the head coaching position at Pleasant Grove.

"Those girls' trophies are still in the trophy case," he said. "To add a new one to the trophy case is going to be awesome."

Those trophies don't come without teammates. Malietoa said his teammates, like Thomas and outside hitter Tyson Jarvis, are "the most important thing" to him, which makes sense that he simply calls them "brothers who lift me up and push me to be better".

"This is the best feeling ever; this is amazing," Thomas said. "We started out with a sweep (of Mountain View), and we came out on top in the state."


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