Prep volleyball: Westlake eyes school's first region title
Saratoga Springs • There are plenty of banners hanging from the ceiling in the Westlake gym. Most of them are advertisements for local businesses. And there are the six banners representing each of the schools in Region 7.
However, none of the banners signify a region championship. The school, which opened in 2009, has yet to finish first in a varsity sport.
That streak may come to an end next week. The Thunder volleyball team entered this week with an unblemished 10-0 region mark and can hang the school's first title banner with a win next week against second-place Herriman.
"It would be awesome," junior Shianne Pace said about winning region. "We would start history, I guess."
First-year coach Wayne Wood said a couple of rough stretches in preseason tournaments blossomed into a cohesion that has carried the Thunder for the past six weeks.
Westlake hasn't lost since Sept. 1, a span of 11 matches, and has dominated the competition along the way. That stretch included the school's first victory against Skyline.
"If they hit a speed bump, hit a stumbling block, they are looking longer term than a game," said Wood, a former assistant at Provo and Orem. "We've lost three games in region, and each time we responded by winning 25-7. They have rebounded really well in those cycle games."
Making noise for the Thunder is a pair of juniors outside hitter Anela Hansen, who leads the team in kills, and Shianne Pace, top in hitting percentage.
Westlake also has five seniors, each of whom brings something different to the table, according to Wood.
The coach called senior Ceci Johnson the emotional leader; middle blocker Amanda Campbell brings the passion and energy; libero Courtney Kamauoha provides the defense; server Cara Paulson offers four years of experience; and outside hitter McKenzie Weaver is the ideal change of pace opposite the hard-hitting Hansen.
Johnson said Wood deserves some of the credit for the Thunder's success.
"He lets us play relaxed," Johnson said. "It's not a stressful situation. He gives us the confidence to play as well as we can."
Goalkeeper Lauren Groathouse posted shutouts in Waterford's first two games in the Class 2A soccer playoffs to raise her season total to nine. The Ravens (10-5-1) play Maeser Prep in Friday's semifinal, with the winner meeting either St. Joseph or Manti in Saturday's final at Rio Tinto Stadium.