The last few years some phenomenal individual athletes have highlighted Utah’s prep volleyball scene.
This year, however, the most successful programs may not have a superstar. Instead, depth and chemistry may be the keys to competing for top honors in 2013.
“It will be interesting to see how it all shakes out,” said Lehi head coach Jamie Ingersoll. “I think it is a lot wider this year. There just aren’t these key athletes, but there are a lot of really good players across the board. I think teams are going to have to be more defensive and less focused on one player.”
She said watching preseason tournaments has convinced her the quality of defense will make it difficult for any one superstar player to dominate.
“There were a lot of balls you thought were kills that got (picked) up,” she said. “I think there is going to be a lot of great defense that will allow teams to stay in those long rallies. I’m excited. I think it will be a little different.”
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The Pioneers took over 5A’s top spot after an impressive showing at the Rocky Mountain Classic last weekend. The team is led by senior Cydney Lund, the team’s libero who will play for Utah Valley University next season.
“She will be the key to our defense,” Ingersoll said. Senior right side Resi Tua and sophomore Rylan Roberts will also need to make big contributions for the Pioneers to do well this season.
Defending 5A state champion Pleasant Grove lost the 5A MVP Melissa Fuchs to graduation, but they return key contributors from last year’s team like setter Brisa Winterton, Madison Wolford and outside Rachel Gale.
Last year’s runner-up Lone Peak will likely be in the mix despite losing Ms. Volleyball Kizzy Willey. The Knights program is strong — they are contenders every season, regardless of who is on the roster. Last year junior Emily Lewis saw plenty of varsity time in a variety of positions at the net.
Fremont and Northridge illustrated just how competitive Region 1 will be by beating each other in their first two meetings. Both teams are playing well, as is Syracuse, although Fremont and Northridge had played tougher schedules.
Senior outside Kaitlin Verbitski and senior libero Kelly Erwin lead the Knights. Captains Megan Gallegos, Jessica Quayle and McKenzie Burrows lead Fremont.
Herriman moves into the 5A rankings this week after a tremendous start. The Mustangs are led by a group of seniors that started at the school when it opened.
“This is the group that started with us as freshman, and they’ve been through the entire building-the-program process,” said head coach Bryan Nicholson. “They’re all Herriman kids.”
He admits moving back into 5A, which is where the school started four years ago, is a challenge, especially in Region 4.
“We’re excited though,” he said. “The girls have started out really well, and our record has been great so far. We know region is going to get a lot tougher, but we’re more excited than anything to get into that kind of region.”
The team is led by third-year starter Jacey Saunders, who is the squad’s setter. Senior outside hitter Sadie Pond is another “main weapon” for the Mustangs.”
Timpview and Sky View should both be in the mix this season. They’ve lost to each other in a tournament last weekend.
The T-birds have plenty of experience back with senior setter Jessie Jorgensen, senior outside hitter Lauryn Dela Cruz, senior middle hitter Chelsea Adams, and junior outside hitter, Lacy Haddock and her sister, setter Lyndie Haddock.
Sky View graduated most of last year’s key contributors, but senior outside hitter Taylor Duryea is back to lead the team this season. Senior outside hitter Kelsee Carlsen, junior middle hitter Savanna Boehme, and senior libero Erica Thompson have already proved the Bobcats are contenders in both region and state play.
There are a number of other 4A teams that could be in the mix including Mountain Crest, Judge, Clearfield, Skyline and Timpanogos.
The defending state champion Desert Hill Thunder returns enough of last year’s team to start the season ranked as 3A’s top team. The squad is led by senior outside hitter Blair Bliss, who was the 3A MVP last season. Also returning from last year’s title team are senior setter Alexa Goulding and senior libero Julia Perez.
The Thunder have already won a preseason match against region rival and second-ranked Snow Canyon. The Warriors are extremely young, but have a winning tradition that almost guarantees they will be contenders for both the region title and the state championship.
Sophomore outside hitter Alexsa Parker leads the Warriors.
Senior middle blocker McKenzie Schenk leads perennial power Morgan High. Juan Diego, Tooele and Richfield, last year’s 2A state champion, could all contend in 3A. The Wildcats graduated most of last year’s varsity team, including multiple MVP and Ms. Volleyball Megan Bean.
The Buffalo have the best record thus far and are led by libero Maddy Gibson and hitters Taylor Thomas and Brin Stewart.
The state’s second smallest classification got a lot more interesting when Richfield moved to 3A.
Even with a new coach at the helm, last year’s second-place team, Enterprise, is ranked No. 1 because of the talent returning. Junior outside hitter Riley Lyman, senior middle blocker Dakota Robinson, senior outside hitter Jaycee Reber and setter Kaylee Christensen have already proven the Wolves will contend in both region and state this season.
Grand and San Juan should provide some great volleyball matches with the Red Devils winning the first meeting between the two teams. Grand is extremely young and is led by senior middle/outside Tiffanie Whipple and sophomore middle/outside Sydney Lema.
Junior outside hitter Tatiana Su’e Su’e, who was last spring’s Ms. Softball, leads the Broncos.
Last year the St. Joseph Jayhawks made history by earning the school’s first-ever berth into the 1A state championship match. That squad didn’t have a senior on the roster, so it it’s understandable that the Jayhawks start the season ranked number one.
Led by senior outside hitter Britt Sederholm, outside hitter Jessie Bischoff, Danielle Shinaut and libero Emily Jackson, the Jayhawks are already proving to be a formidable foe with a 12-0 start.
While Monticello was voted in the top five in the preseason poll, the Buckaroos graduated nearly all of last year’s team.
Second-ranked Rich, on the other hand, has both talent and tradition, and should be in the mix for both region and state titles. Senior outside hitter Cami Lamborn, as well as senior outside hitter Ellen Peart, lead the Rebels. The team has two setters — junior Jerica Sorochuck and freshman Andee Cornia.
While Rich, Monticello and St. Joseph shouldn’t have a lot of competition in region play, last year’s semi-finalist Piute and perennial power Panguitch will battle in the deepest region in the class — Region 20. Three of Piute’s four wins were against 2A teams.
The Bobcats and T-birds meet for the first time on Wednesday, Sept. 11.