San Juan volleyball finishes seventh

by Rhett Sifford
Sports Editor
The San Juan High School volleyball team suffered a huge blow to their state title hopes when the team captain and leader Jaci Sue’eSu’e went down with a season-ending injury in the first round of the 2A state tournament on October 19 in Blanding.
But the Lady Broncos showed some impressive resilience, heart, and sacrifice as they laid it on the line in the final four games of the season this past weekend at Utah Valley University in Orem.
On Friday, October 27 San Juan opened against Rowland Hall in the Round of 16, defeating the Lady Winged Lions in four sets to advance to the state quarterfinals against #1 Parowan.
It was the toughest match of the year for the Lady Broncos and though they fought valiantly they fell in straight sets to the eventual state champions.
The loss meant San Juan would drop into the consolation bracket with a chance to finish fifth as long as they won their remaining two matches.
They had a fight on their hands in the semifinals Saturday, October 28 against St. Joseph, who were ranked fifth heading into the tournament.
But the Lady Broncos outlasted the Lady Jayhawks to win in five sets and advance to the fifth-place game against #10 Enterprise.
San Juan kept it close, but were unable to get over the hump against the Lady Wolves, falling in straight sets to finish seventh in the tournament.
The Lady Broncos end the season with a 17-14 overall record. They were 6-4 in Region 15, finishing in second place.
Following the conclusion of the season, first-year Head Coach Shelby Eldredge expressed many thoughts about the season and her players via email.
“At the beginning of the season we began setting individual and team goals. We knew if we were all progressing each week we would be a solid team by the end of the season.
“Every girl stepped up to this challenge and it was evident we were a much stronger team toward the end of the season than in August.
“It was so much fun watching this team play “TOGETHER” the last few home matches. The players kept their intensity high, didn’t get down, remained mentally tough, and showed us really how good they were.
“After Jaci Su’eSu’e suffered her injury we were all very emotional and nervous about changes we would need to make. Jaci was a strong leader and captain of our team; when we needed a side-out she was the one we would go to.
“I was so proud of our team for fighting through our emotions and stress the week before the state tournament. Trinity Whatcott and Shaylin Nez, the other two seniors and captains, stepped up and became the leaders we needed.
Madden Perkins was moved from the Off Hand Hitter to Middle Blocker and she worked hard all week to learn quick sets and blocking across the net. It wasn’t an easy task, but she stepped up to the challenge and did a great job.
“Many girls were put in different positions and tough game situations they were not used to during the state tournament and they gave it all they had.
“I saw so much growth in the team physically, mentally, and competitively this season. We wanted to be a top contender at state and let the 29 2A teams know we are going to be back next year better and stronger.
“We will miss our seniors tremendously and wish them good luck in their activities and sports throughout the year. I will always be cheering you on. I would like to thank all the parents and fans who supported us throughout this great season.”
Though statistics are incomplete for the Lady Broncos, we can get a good idea by observing what is reported. Not surprisingly, Su’eSu’e led the team in a number of categories.
She had a team-high 182 kills, a team-high 93.8 serve percentage, 32 aces, 130 points off serves, and a team-high 65 blocks. Morgann McPherson finished the year with 173 kills, 30 aces, 135 points off serves, and 234 digs.
Keezie Flannery had 104 kills, a team-high 54 aces, a team-high 226 points off serves, 22 blocks, and 204 digs. Trinity Whatcott had 98 kills, a 91.7 serve percentage, 31 aces, 164 points off serves, and 197 digs.
Lizzie Palmer had 78 kills and 39 blocks. Madden Perkins had 63 kills and 40 blocks. Averie Gilson had a 90.5 serve percentage, 38 aces, 113 serve points, and a team-high 291 digs. And Shaylin Nez had 25 aces, 112 points off serves, and 89 digs.
San Juan will be without the services of three seniors when they start the year next fall, including Su’eSu’e, Whatcott, and Nez. But for now they can take pride in an excellent 2023 season.

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