BISHOP KELLY KNIGHTS
Coach: Alisha Young, second season
Last year’s league record: 9-1 (first)
Returning starters: Lindsey Schmidt, jr., middle hitter; Macy Burch, jr., outside hitter
Breakdown: The Knights had the top finish among Valley teams at state last season, knocking off Skyview in the third-place game before losing to eventual champion Century. Nine seniors graduated from that team, including 4A SIC player of the year Emily Sullivan, who is now at Carroll College. Young says BK’s serving and blocking have improved and that the Knights will be strong defensively.
Coach: Erin Lokteff, first season
Last year’s league record: 0-10 (sixth)
Returning starters: Jasmin Martinez, sr., MH (honorable mention); Maggie Langan, sr., OH/MH; Jasmyn Garsez, sr., OH; Andi Waters, jr., L; Amanda Lee, jr., S
Breakdown: The Cougars are coming off a winless season, but Lokteff has ample returners to work with. Caldwell focused on fundamentals during the offseason with the expectation that defense will have to be its strength without a lot of height at the net. Freshman Jalen Calendar could have an immediate impact on the outside. “Our fundamentals all-around have improved dramatically,” Lokteff said.
Coach: Deb Bradburn, ninth season
Last year’s league record: 7-3 (third)
Returning starters: Nikole Cook, sr., S (first team); Rebekah Farris, sr., OH (second team); Allison Law, sr., MH (honorable mention)
Breakdown: With three starters back who made the all-conference team, the Kavemen should again be in the running for a state playoff berth. Cook, a college recruit, gives Kuna an advantage as one of the top setters in the state in any classification. Even with one of the quickest offenses in the conference, Bradburn anticipates her team’s strength will be defense.
Coach: Jan Arrasmith, 12th season
Last year’s league record: 4-6 (fourth)
Returning starters: Dakotah Walker, jr., S; Marissa Hilliard, jr., MH (second team); Chloe Lampman, sr., OH (second team); Brooke Davis, sr., MH
Breakdown: The Vikings were one victory short of advancing to a state play-in game last season, and four starters are back with the experience to get them further into the postseason this fall. Middleton has already proven it can be a contender with a nonconference win over 5A SIC power Rocky Mountain. “There is chemistry with this team, and they enjoy playing with each other,” Arrasmith said.
MOUNTAIN HOME TIGERS
Coach: Jill Peterson, third season
Last year’s league record: 2-8 (fifth)
Returning starter: Sable Lohmeier, jr., OH
Breakdown: The Tigers are essentially starting over after the graduation of a three-year varsity setter and the transfer of two other starters. As the only returning starter, Lohmeier, who played middle last season, was voted captain and moves to the outside. “Defense and a defensive mindset have been big focuses for us since our size is not overwhelming,” Peterson said.
Coach: Kevin Murphy, 12th season
Last year’s league record: 8-2 (second)
Returning starters: Hailee Ackerman, jr., OH (first team); Dani Nay, so., OH (first team); Olivia Bradley, so., MH; Annie Anderson, sr., RS (first team)
Breakdown: While the Hawks lost their starting setter from last fall, the majority of their offensive firepower is back, including three first-team all-conference hitters. Nay and Bradley stepped into starting roles last season as freshmen and are poised to be even stronger in 2015, making it hard for opposing defenses to key on one player. “Our goal is to be playing our best at the end of the season,” Murphy said.