The Skyview High volleyball team made history in the 4A classification last season, becoming the first Southern Idaho Conference team to win the state title since the classification started in 2000.
With all but one starter back from that 40-3 team, opposing squads will have a hard time dethroning the Hawks.
While Skyview broke through at the 4A level last season, the 5A SIC is hoping to follow suit in 2017. The conference hasn’t won a state championship since Rocky Mountain’s title in 2010.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
McKenzie Lee, setter, Eagle
The 6-foot-1 senior is one of just two returning all-5A SIC first-teamers. Lee, a Northwest Nazarene commit, runs the Mustangs’ offense seamlessly and puts up a big block.
“McKenzie has the hands, decision-making and competitive spirit to lead her team against any opponent,” Capital coach Ryan Hofmann said. “She’s a leader and conductor to help her team be in the position to do their job.”
Mahala Bradburn, libero, Kuna
A returning first-team selection in the 5A SIC, the senior will lead Kuna’s back-row defense with experience and tenacity. She is committed to Idaho State.
“Smooth, consistent, good leader and plays awesome defense,” Eagle coach Collin Hartman said. “She’s a coach’s kid, so she understands the game well.”
Sarah Lyons, middle blocker, Rocky Mountain
The junior will transition from outside hitter to middle blocker this season to take advantage of her height (6-0) and vertical leap.
“In my opinion, she is their best player but doesn’t get set as many balls as kids on other teams so may not be as easily noticed,” Hartman said.
Miranda Lamb, outside hitter, Timberline
She played opposite 2016 5A SIC Player of the Year Brooke Foster and is now set to shine as a junior.
“She is a strong outside hitter, good defender and blocker,” Timberline coach Carol Klein said.
Natalie Sullivan, outside hitter, Bishop Kelly
Known for her strong presence in the front row as a hitter and blocker, the senior and reigning all-4A SIC first-teamer has improved her back-row play as well.
“Natalie is a strong hitter who is difficult to stop,” Skyview coach Kevin Murphy said. “She has good size and can hit a multitude of sets and shots. Definitely a go-to hitter who can score when needed.”
Whitney Bower, setter, Skyview
The 5-9 sophomore lefty verbally committed to BYU in April, and was followed a few months later by older sister Morgan Bower, the Hawks’ junior libero. Whitney and Morgan were second-team all-4A SIC selections a year ago.
“Very competitive setter. Runs the court phenomenally,” Bishop Kelly coach Alisha Young said. “Can also be an attacker when she is not setting.”
Olivia Bradley, middle blocker, Skyview
The Montana commit landed on the all-4A SIC first team last season as a junior.
“Outstanding middle who puts up a huge block,” Middleton coach Kamille Crawford said. “She is a powerful hitter who is also a very smart hitter.”
Dani Nay, outside hitter, Skyview
The 2016 Gatorade Idaho and 4A SIC player of the year is committed to Weber State. Nay sprained an ankle Aug. 21 but is likely to be back in the Hawks’ starting lineup soon.
“She doesn’t have a real weakness and can take over offensively,” BK’s Young said.
5A SIC BREAKDOWN
TIMBERLINE and ROCKY MOUNTAIN exchanged blows for the top spot in the 5A SIC last season, and they’re expected to be among the leading contenders for supremacy again this season.
Timberline, which received five first-place votes in the 2017 preseason coaches’ poll, won the 2016 regular-season title, while Rocky Mountain claimed the district championship.
Both teams return four starters.
Starting an inexperienced roster last season should pay off for EAGLE this year. Athletic setter McKenzie Lee is one of six starters back for the Mustangs, who have three players already committed to play in college and two more weighing their options.
KUNA was a consistent state qualifier in the 4A SIC, but took some lumps when it joined the 5A classification last season. The Kavemen hope to contend for a state spot this season with the help of four returning starters, headlined by setter Samantha Butler and libero Mahala Bradburn.
BOISE and MOUNTAIN VIEW each received one first-place vote. Boise must replace seven seniors, and Mountain View returns three from last year’s state-qualifying team.
The 5A SIC receives four automatic state berths and could qualify a fifth team via a play-in match.
4A SIC BREAKDOWN
SKYVIEW begins the season needing to replace just one starter from last year’s state championship team, meaning the Hawks aren’t likely to skip a beat.
The Hawks have the offensive weapons and defensive consistency to overwhelm their opponents.
PrepVolleyball.com ranks Skyview No. 38 in the nation, and the Hawks could very well be the best overall team in the state. They have won six straight 4A District Three Tournament championships.
Skyview’s strength leaves the rest of the 4A SIC fighting for second place.
BISHOP KELLY finished second at last year’s district tournament and fourth at state, and the Knights return three starters.
While MIDDLETON lost all-4A SIC first-teamer Marissa Hilliard to graduation, the Vikings return six starters and seven overall from last season’s roster. They were the only other team to receive a first-place vote in this year’s coaches’ poll.
VALLIVUE also welcomes back six starters, which should put the Falcons in the mix for one of three state tournament berths in their second season in the 4A SIC.
Preseason coaches’ polls
Team (1st-place votes)
1. Timberline (5)
2. Rocky Mountain (1)
3. Eagle (4)
5. Boise (1)
t-7. Mountain View (1)
Team (1st-place votes)
1. Skyview (7)
2. Middleton (1)
3. Bishop Kelly
7. Mountain Home