by Walter & Becky Bird
If there is one thing we can expect from a Tony Esplin coached volleyball team, it is consistency.His volleyball teams have been an annual fixture in the state semi-final bracket, and his teams won state championships in 2011 and 2012.
This year seems to be no different. The Deseret News has Monticello ranked third in the preseason 1A poll behind the Rich Rebels and the media consensus favorite Panguitch Bobcats.
Preseason rankings are one thing, so we asked Coach Esplin what he thought the upcoming year would hold.
1. After last year’s solid season where your team made the semi-final game at the state tournament, what are the goals of this team going into the season?
“We always hope to compete for the state title, but we usually set our goal to be playing the final day in the championship side of the bracket and to finish in the top three at state.
“We have some early season injury issues to deal with and, like most everyone else, new positioning to work the bugs out of.
“So working as a team unit is always a goal. Make each other better. Hard work in practice is also a goal we have.”
2. Who do you expect to be leaders of this team and what players could surprise?
“We look to our seniors for leadership and they are working to figure out how they can use their individual strengths to lead the team.
“All three seniors, Shalee Bradford, Journey Baird, and Tristen Esplin, had key roles on last year’s team, so we hope they can step it up to another level this year.
“Megan Black was young last year, but we also expect her to step it up another level or two. But she has started off with an injury that will set her back several weeks or maybe a month.
“Others to look for will be Presley Lewis, Morgan Maloy, Rianna Shumway, and Whitney Knudsen. We look to have great play out of all these girls.”
3. What do you hope to see from the team as the season progresses?
“As the season progresses we look to be able to push ourselves harder than we thought possible, get and stay healthy, and become one as a unit where we have great trust in each other’s abilities. We look to have a lot of fun and make some great lasting memories.”
4. You seem to have a fairly experienced team. How do you use that experience to improve and perhaps get to the next level of playing for the title?
“The returning players from last year’s team have been able to feel the sting of falling short of their personal goals last year.
“Even though we placed third, they thought they could have done better. We hope to have that memory be the motivation to propel them forward.”
5. Every team is different. What does this team have that could lead to success, and how have your past teams influenced how you approach each team and season?
“Yes, every team is different, and many in good ways. This team is pretty well rounded, pretty good at all positions, just without much depth.
“We look to use that ability to improve each position’s skills and as a team be much stronger.
“We do not have just one standout player. We are all pretty well-rounded, and we hope to be very versatile and use all positions to the full potential.
“In some past teams we had some great players at a couple positions and some very good role players. This team is pretty good at all positions.”
On Tuesday, August 28, the volleyball team heads to Kayenta to kick off its season.
XC – Badger Invitational and the Westlake Grass Relays
With a good look at some of the top 1A teams and perhaps a preview of what could be in store at the 1A state championships in October, the Monticello XC teams traveled to Bicknell on Thursday, August 23 for the Badger Invitational hosted by fellow Region 19 school Wayne.
The Lady Bucks got off to a great start on the year, finishing second as a team by scoring 32 points, only ten points behind last year’s 1A champion Panguitch Bobcats, who scored 22.
Maddie Freestone led the way with an overall third place finish with a time of 22:10. A mere three seconds behind was teammate Lily Long, who finished fourth in 22:13.
Kennedy Brewer placed twelfth overall, running a time of 24:00. Right behind her in 13th was Serra St. Clair, crossing the line in 24:07.
Halle Morrison finished 29th with a time of 27:19, and Jessica Begay finished 49th with a time of 36:42.
Fellow Region 19 teams Whitehorse, Wayne, and Pinnacle scored 49, 81, and 125 points in the meet to finish third, fourth, and eighth.
In the boy’s race, Monticello exhibited some early season 1A dominance by muscling past last year’s state runner-up, Panguitch, by the score of 16-58.
The Carbon Dinos placed second as a team ahead of Panguitch by scoring 32 points.
The Bucks captured the first three overall spots and four of the top ten. Adam Bunker came in first with a time of 16:46.
He was followed closely by Alan Pettit and Cory Bunker, who finished second and third with times of 17:04 and 17:17.
Teammate Hyrum Johnson finished tenth with a time of 18:27. Dylan Bird crossed the line next in 17th place with a time of 19:20.
Lucas Hatch and Justus Robison finished 19th and 21st with times of 19:27 and 19:39.
Britton Brewer, Eric Montague, and Parker Walker finished 24th, 33rd, and 41st with times of 20:14, 21:16, and 21:58.
The last Bucks to come in were Bailey Walker (22:11), Taylor Torgerson (25:34), Taw Robinson (25:36), Dawson Atwood (26:15), and Robert Musselman (26:50).
On Saturday, August 25, the XC teams traveled north to the Westlake Grass Relays in Saratoga Springs.
This race has a different format with freshman / sophomore races as well as JV and Varsity relay races consisting of two-mile legs on grass with sporadic jumping of hay bale obstacles. 1,150 athletes from all Utah classes competed at the meet.
The Lady Bucks ran in the JV race and did well competing in such a large field.
Maddie Freestone finished 64th with a time of 15:18. Lily Long finished 67th, crossing the line in 15:23.
Serra St. Clair finished 98th with a time of 16:02. Kennedy Brewer ran a 16:29 to finish 121st and Jessica Begay finished in 25:30 for 219th place.
In the boys sophomore race, Bailey Walker ran a 14:50 for 129th place, Dawson Atwood crossed in 16:50 for 151st place, Robert Musselman finished in 18:11 for 157th place, and Jaxson Wells finished with a 19:04 for 161st place.
In the boys JV race, Justus Robison was the first Buck runner across with a time of 12:52 for a 127th place finish.
Next was Lucas Hatch (13:12), Britton Brewer (13:40), Parker Walker (14:42), and Bowden Hunter (15:16) for 157th, 203rd, 266th, and 282nd places respectively.
In the Varsity relay, Monticello finished 20th out of 21 teams, only beating 3A Juab.
However, the Bucks can’t feel too bad because they toed the line with some of the best teams in the state and western U.S., including 6A American Fork, 6A Davis, 6A Riverton, 6A Bingham, 5A Springville, and 4A Spanish Fork.
American Fork won the two-mile team race in 53:18 and the top Utah ranked boy, Grant Gardner from Springville, won the overall race, covering the two miles in 10:14.
Buck harriers Alan Petitt, Cory Bunker, Hyrum Johnson, Dylan Bird, and Adam Bunker finished with an overall time of 1:01:32 with personal times of 11:52, 11:56, 12:44, 13.37, and 11.24 in the two-mile legs.
The Bucks are looking forward to this week.
They host the Loyds Lake Classic on Friday, August 31. There will be boys and girls junior high, JV, and varsity races starting at 3 p.m., so come up to the lake and support the teams.
Monticello v. San Juan
It was a rough night for the Bucks last Friday, as they hosted the San Juan Broncos.
The scoring was fast and furious in the first half, as Monticello gave up 19 first quarter points and 21 second quarter points to trail 40-0 at half.
After Monticello gave up another third quarter TD to San Juan, the Bucks shut them out the rest of the game, finally losing by the score of 47-0.
Offensively, the Bucks moved the ball at times, but couldn’t sustain drives that found the end zone.
QB Mark Beh completed 10 of 30 passes for 120 yards, but threw two interceptions and fumbled twice on the night.
His favorite target was his brother, Matt, who caught five passes for 64 yards.
Reed Hedglin and Weston Nebeker also caught two passes each. Steven Robinson had one catch that went for 22 yards.
Monticello ended the night with eight net rushing yards.
Weston Nebeker ran for 27 yards on 13 carries and QB Mark Beh had -19 yards on seven carries. Steven Robinson’s lone rush gained no yards.
Defensively, Monticello gave up 397 yards. 205 of those yards came on the ground and 192 through the air.
Wyatt Fullmer led the Bucks in tackles with seven. Gage Wilcox and Steven Anderson added six tackles each with Wilcox having one tackle for a loss.
Reed Hedglin and Colton Lewis added five tackles apiece with Lewis also having a tackle for a loss. Matt Beh came away with one interception.
This week, Monticello (1-1) travels to Colorado on August 31 to take on the Dolores Bears (0-0) with the hope of getting back on the winning track. The game kicks off at 7 p.m. in Dolores.
The game will be broadcast live on 103.9 KAAJ-LP starting at 6:50 p.m.