San Juan volleyball team tops Monticello in first meeting between the rivals this season

by Rhett Sifford
Sports Editor
The San Juan and Monticello high school volleyball teams squared off for the first of two meetings this season on Tuesday, August 29 in the MHS gym.
The Lady Buckaroos won the opening set in a tightly-contested affair 26-24, but the Lady Broncos stormed back to take the next three and the victory, 25-13, 25-18, and 25-23.
San Juan senior Jaci Su’esu’e led the match with 11 kills. Lizzie Palmer and Morgann McPherson, both sophomores, had eight kills apiece. And senior Trinity Whatcott collected six in the win.
For Monticello, Taylor Barry led with nine kills, Shayla Pehrson had eight, Alise Lewis seven, AJ Young six, Kyleigh Adair four, and Hannah Barry one.
Su’esu’e blocked four MHS shots for San Juan during the win while Palmer had two blocks. Whatcott and Madden Perkins had one apiece. Lewis led the Monticello blocking effort with two. Taylor Barry and Shayla Pehrson had one apiece.
Sophomore Keezie Flannery led San Juan in the serving department, committing no errors in an impressive 20 attempts. Su’esu’e was perfect in 13 attempts. Elise Lewis led Monticello with a 2.19 service rating. Hannah Barry was right behind with a 2.17.
Both teams played one other match apiece this past Thursday, August 31 on the road. San Juan swept Bayfield and Monticello swept Green River.
After the past week’s action the Lady Broncos are 5-3 and the Lady Buckaroos are 4-6. The first RPI standings of the season are set to be revealed on September 11.
The head coaches of both teams recently shared some thoughts on the season and their squads with the San Juan Record. San Juan Head Coach Shelby Eldredge has just begun her first season.
“We have a young team,” she says, “but they are hard workers and they are working hard to progress and get better each week, individually and as a team.
“[In early matches] I am very impressed with the progression of play. We’ve competed against every team. I know the girls have a lot of fight in them and hopefully we can continue that intensity throughout the season.
“We have some great leadership in our seniors, Jaci Su’eSu’e, Trinity Whatcott, and Shaylin Nez.  They have really helped with planning photography sessions, uniforms, texting all the players, leading warmups and cheers, and helping in any way us coaches have asked.
“We have many strong young athletes coming up and I contribute that to previous coaches and parents who have spent many hours driving the girls to tournaments in the offseason.
“Almost all of our freshmen and sophomores have been involved in club travel ball and I know from past experience that what they learn while in elementary and middle school helps their success in high school.
“Thirty three years ago I started coaching with Mary Thornton and I remember the freshman coming in had no idea what a 6-2 or 5-1 offense was. So we decided to get a youth volleyball program going.
“I witnessed a big shift in the program and it produced many state championships. So I would like to publicly thank all the parents who jump in and coach the youth programs! They make all the difference in the high school programs.
“I really feel we have a lot of strengths this season. Many girls are strong all the way around but at the same time many of our players are young and lack varsity experience.
“So far I have seen us as a strong serving team and a team that wants to win. Their strongest factor may be that they are hungry for success and love to practice and work hard.
“We are working on perfecting things we can control. Each girl is setting a personal goal each week, and as coaches we want them to constantly be growing and becoming their best selves and players.
“We also are working on getting to know each team member by warming up and practicing with different girls each week. If we can like each player and grow individually we will be a lot stronger as a team.
“My personal goal as a coach is be a top contender at the state tournament and, yes, the optimum goal is to take state!
“When the season is over I would love for each player to look back on the year and see a lot of personal growth in their playing skills, new friends they have made, and tons of fun memories
“I would like to personally thank my assistant coaches, Sara Flannery and Ta’ssi Saunders. We came into this position in late July and have had a lot to get ready, but they are true champions in the way they coach the girls and have made volleyball a top priority in their lives.”
Monticello Head Coach Sheila Wells is in her second year at the helm of the Lady Buckaroos. She took over halfway through the 2022 season.
“We have a lot of returning talent and we are impressed with how they have improved and matured as players between seasons,” Wells explains.
“We also have some very promising freshmen who joined our team this year. We have implemented some changes with a faster tempo offense which requires a different style of passing, setting, and approach, but our players have already made great strides in making these changes.
“They have also demonstrated patience with a relatively new coaching staff (my first full season as head coach and LaShay Eldredge’s first year as assistant coach).
“We’re trying to work out the kinks in teaching the new system and, through the players’ efforts and determination, we have already seen great improvement in their skills and court sense.
At the moment our greatest weakness is our defensive play which is what we saw in the game against San Juan.
“While we will continue to work on our offensive system, we will be shifting gears a little to focus on a quicker and more determined defense.
“I think our greatest strength is our team unity and I believe this will continue to grow as the season progresses.
“With only one returning senior, Shayla Pehrson, we are considered a young team. Sometimes that means cohesion struggles, but we couldn’t have asked for a better single individual to lead this team.
“We are impressed with all of our players, not only in their talent, hard work, and determination, but they each bring their own uniqueness to the team which is fun to coach and fun to watch. Come to a game and see for yourself!
“As coaches, we are excited for the remainder of this season and once these players realize their own potential and the potential of each teammate, they will be a force to be reckoned with on the volleyball court.”
It’s a busy week for both the Broncos and Buckaroos once again. They have already played their first games of the week on Tuesday, September 5 – San Juan at North Sevier and Monticello at home versus Grand County.
San Juan will travel to play North Summit on Friday, September 8 then Duchesne on Saturday, September 9. Monticello will conclude their week at home against Dove Creek on Thursday, September 7.

San Juan Record

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