Varsity Extra

Rocky Mountain High setter’s injury becomes ‘huge advantage’

Rocky Mountain volleyball wins one final, minute-long point

Rocky Mountain defeated Timberline in four games to win its first district championship since 2011. The final point of the match took more than a minute.
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Rocky Mountain defeated Timberline in four games to win its first district championship since 2011. The final point of the match took more than a minute.

Shannan Cambron had to make some compromises in order to play her senior year of volleyball at Rocky Mountain High.

The pain in her knees from patellar tendinopathy had become so bad, she wasn’t sure she would enjoy playing, or even be an asset on the court.

But after watching her teammates play the first two matches of the season, Cambron decided sitting on the bench was more painful than any discomfort she might have to endure on the court.

“I love being a part of a team, but when I was watching that first game, it was awful to just sit there,” Cambron said. “I wanted to be on the court so bad.”

Cambron wasn’t used to sitting idle.

In her three previous seasons on varsity, Cambron was the Grizzlies’ starting setter. At 5-foot-2, she was never going to be the strongest blocker on the team, and the more jumping she did, the worse her knees felt.

So Rocky Mountain coach Judyann Balukoff came up with a plan to keep the four-year starter on the court without compromising her health, or the team’s strength at the net.

The Grizzlies switched from running a 5-1 — a lineup that uses one setter — to a 6-2, which utilizes two setters.

“I know it’s been hard, but I don’t think that has shown. She has been an exceptional leader,” Balukoff said. “As we tried to find different solutions when we weren’t even sure if she was ever going to get back into the lineup, she was always there supporting whoever it was that was doing that job.”

The new lineup gives the Grizzlies three hitters in the front row at all times, making it more difficult for opposing defenses to key in on any single hitter. Cambron comes in for three rotations in the back row, which eliminates the need for her to block.

“I didn’t know what to expect from a 6-2, but it’s actually helped us,” Cambron said. “It’s been a huge advantage. There’s always a different hitter putting a different look on the court.”

Sophomore Sidney Frith shares setting duties with Cambron, and Balukoff uses 10-11 players every match.

“It keeps everybody engaged and involved and allows everybody to contribute,” Balukoff said. “When we practice, everybody knows that they have a role to play, and that makes it a lot easier for them to buy in.”

Last week, Rocky Mountain beat Timberline for the program’s first 5A District Three Tournament championship since 2011. They are now the league’s No. 1 seed at state, where the Grizzlies won their only title in 2010.

Shannan’s older sister, Shelbi, was a libero on the Grizzlies’ 2010 team, and Shannan and current teammate Kate Lyon were in the stands watching Shelbi that year.

After Rocky Mountain won, the then-11-year-olds had their picture taken with the state championship trophy.

Cambron and Lyon hope to recreate the same photo this weekend.

“My team, we’ve been ready for a long time for this, and especially us four seniors,” Cambron said. “... We just have so much heart, and we have so much passion for the game.

We fight so hard that I personally believe it doesn’t totally matter your skill. As long as you have those aspects like energy and heart and fight, you can accomplish anything, and I think our team has those things.”

MTN. VIEW MAKES RARE TRIP TO STATE

The Mavericks finished fourth in the district tournament last week, earning the second state appearance in program history. Mountain View also qualified in 2014, when it went two-and-out. The Mavericks will try for their first win when they open play against Lake City on Friday at Skyline High in Idaho Falls.

BOISE, TIMBERLINE EYE HISTORY

Since the Idaho High School Activities Association began sponsoring the state tournament in 1976, no Boise School District team has won a state championship in volleyball. Timberline was the most recent BSD team to play in the championship match, losing in three sets to Idaho Falls in 2004.

4A TOURNAMENT LOADED WITH TALENT

A new classification cycle this fall saw two-time defending 5A state champion Idaho Falls move down to the 4A level. The Tigers will have to contend with Century, which has won the past six 4A championships, and six-time defending District Three champion Skyview. A Treasure Valley team has not won a 4A title since the classification began in 2000.

Rachel Roberts: 208-377-6422, @IDS_VarsityX

Treasure Valley state qualifiers

  • 5A: Rocky Mountain, Timberline, Boise and Mountain View
  • 4A: Skyview, Bishop Kelly, Middleton
  • 3A: Weiser, Parma
  • 2A: Nampa Christian, Cole Valley Christian, Melba
  • 1A Division: Horseshoe Bend, Ambrose, Compass Honors
  • 1A Division II: Salmon River
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