New volleyball rivalries will be formed this fall when the 5A and 4A Southern Idaho conferences begin competition.
Classification changes resulted in a 10-team 5A SIC, which now includes two-time defending 4A state champion Skyview.
The Hawks will challenge Timberline — winner of three of the past five district titles — for supremacy, while the 4A SIC will crown a new district champ for the first time in eight seasons.
And for the first time since 1991, the state tournaments will be played in the Treasure Valley. The double-elimination tournaments run Oct. 26-27 at Ridgevue (5A), Rocky Mountain (4A), Mountain View (3A), Capital (2A), Skyview (1A D-I) and Borah (1A D-II).
So which Valley teams are most likely to make it to the top in 5A? And who will break through in 4A? We take a stab at those predictions.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Morgan Bower, libero, Skyview
The senior BYU commit will form the backbone of the Hawks’ offense as a strong passer and defender.
“Morgan reads the game extremely well and always seems to be in the right place,” Eagle coach Collin Hartman said. “She’s a great leader on the court and just takes up a ton of space.”
Whitney Bower, setter, Skyview
The 5-9 junior lefty and BYU commit is dangerous in all facets of the game. She is the younger sister of Morgan Bower.
“She is gritty, fast, and besides putting up a great ball, she has a canon of an arm,” Hartman said.
Miranda Lamb, outside hitter, Timberline
The senior will be a three-year starter for the Wolves and is a returning first-team selection in the 5A SIC.
“She is able to attack the holes in the defense with a variety of shots,” Rocky Mountain coach Courtney Toney said. “A player that makes the sport look easy.”
Sarah Lyons, middle blocker, Rocky Mountain
One of just two returning first-team all-5A SIC selections, the 6-0 senior is committed to Northwest Nazarene.
“Sarah is a very strong and athletic player who plays with a lot of physicality,” Skyview coach Kevin Murphy said. “One of the hardest working kids on the court who never quits on a play.”
Jordyn Pom-Arleau, outside hitter, Timberline
The 5-foot-9 senior with an impressive vertical leap is committed to Hawaii-Hilo. She’ll be a two-year starter and was a second-team pick in the 5A SIC a year ago.
“Jordyn plays a lot bigger than her size,” Murphy said. “She’s an extremely athletic kid who has all the shots/tools to be a dominant hitter.”
Linden Carter, middle/outside hitter, Boise
She’ll be a four-year letterman for the Braves and plays a variety of positions.
“By the time districts came around, she was a force to deal with,” Capital coach Ryan Hofmann said. “With her height, length and athleticism and her continued commitment to getting better, she will be a top performer in our league this year.”
Rachael Driskell, libero, Columbia
The Idaho State commit impressed in the 5A SIC last season, earning a spot on the second team. She’ll lead the Wildcats’ defense in their return to 4A.
“She passes well, reads and plays aggressive defense and has great leadership skills,” Bishop Kelly coach Joline Armuth said.
Ryann Halladay, outside hitter, Kuna
The junior will be a three-year starter for the Kavemen after receiving second-team recognition in the 5A SIC a year ago.
“She sees the court well and can put the ball pretty much anywhere she wants it,” Kuna coach Allison James said. “Her varsity play last year and club season both have really helped her develop into an all-around player.”
Brynn McKnight, outside hitter, Middleton
Opposing teams will have a hard time containing the 6-0 senior, who is a reigning first-team pick in the 4A SIC and three-year starter.
“She is a powerful hitter and great blocker,” Middleton coach Kamille Crawford said.
Jessi White, libero, Ridgevue
The senior and Eastern Oregon commit enters her fourth season on varsity. White made the all-4A SIC second team last season.
“She’s the kid you just don’t want to serve to because she is going to pass a solid ball nine out of 10 times,” Caldwell coach Erin Lokteff said.
5A SIC BREAKDOWN
THE FAVORITES: Timberline held off Skyview by four points to claim the top spot in the preseason coaches’ poll. The defending 5A District Three champion Wolves return three starters, led by experienced senior outside hitters Miranda Lamb and Jordyn Pom-Arleau.
Skyview moves up to 5A after winning two straight 4A state titles and seven district championships in a row. The Hawks return five starters and have a wealth of Division I talent.
THE CONTENDERS: First-year Rocky Mountain coach Courtney Toney will have a lot to work with thanks to the return of five starters from a team that advanced to state in 2017.
Boise missed out on a state berth last season with a young squad and has four starters back. The Braves finished fifth during the 2017 regular season by one game to Kuna, which has now dropped to the 4A classification.
THE DARK HORSES: Centennial was the surprise of last year’s district tournament, entering as a No. 7 seed but taking third to earn a spot at state. The Patriots have five starters back from that team.
Eagle did not lose a regular-season conference game in 2017 and took second in the district tournament. With only two returning starters, the Mustangs will need their new varsity players to acclimate quickly.
Can’t see the above preseason polls on your phone? Click here for the full version.
4A SIC BREAKDOWN
THE FAVORITE: The door is open in the 4A SIC for a new champion with Skyview’s move to the 5A classification. Middleton’s only regular-season league losses last season came against the Hawks. The Vikings assume the role of favorite with five starters back and a first-place nod from six of the conference’s nine coaches.
THE CONTENDERS: Kuna advanced to the 5A state play-in game last season and shouldn’t have any trouble competing at the 4A level thanks to the return of five starters. Allison James replaces longtime Kavemen coach Deb Bradburn at the helm.
Bishop Kelly also welcomes back five starters from a team that took third during the regular season and at the district tournament. Six-foot-2 sophomore middle blocker Cece Fitz and junior setter Analise Hitchcock will lead an uptempo offense.
THE DARK HORSE: District Three receives two guaranteed berths to state in 2018 and a third team can advance via play-in. Columbia finished in the middle of the pack in the 5A SIC last season, and the Wildcats’ strong defense could keep them in the mix in 4A. All nine teams in the 4A SIC return at least three starters.