Varsity Extra

Five Valley volleyball teams battle back to the state championship round before falling

Skyview’s Rachel Thuernagle (6) celebrates a point with her teammates in the Idaho 5A state volleyball championship game against Thunder Ridge Saturday in Post Falls.
Skyview’s Rachel Thuernagle (6) celebrates a point with her teammates in the Idaho 5A state volleyball championship game against Thunder Ridge Saturday in Post Falls. Coeur d'Alene Press

After a rough start to the volleyball state tournaments, five Treasure Valley teams rallied to the state championship games Saturday. But all five came home from North Idaho with a runner-up trophy.

Skyview (5A), Fruitland (3A), Nampa Christian (2A), Ambrose (1A Division I) and Salmon River (1A Division II) started Saturday in the losers bracket after an early loss. And they all fought through the backside of the state tournament bracket before falling in the championship round.

Skyview (20-4) made its fifth straight appearance in a championship match late Saturday night, including back-to-back trips in its first two seasons as a 5A program.

The Hawks started the double-elimination tournament with a four-set loss to Thunder Ridge, a second-year program from Idaho Falls. But Skyview answered by winning four consecutive matches to earn a rematch with Thunder Ridge in the finals.

That streak included a win over Madison in a rematch of last year’s state title game, and Skyview opened the finals with a first-set victory over Thunder Ridge. But the Titans (37-13) swept the next three sets for a 22-25, 25-22, 25-21, 25-20 victory to avoid an if-necessary, winner-take-all match.

“Honestly, we are extremely proud,” Skyview coach Kevin Murphy said of his team’s finish. “Our kids truly battled. Every game they played, even the championship, could have gone either way.

“When you lose your first-round game and come all the way through, it’s really impressive and says a lot about them.”

One of the state’s top programs, Skyview started the year with tempered expectations. The Hawks finished tied for fourth in a preseason coaches’ poll in the 10-team 5A Southern Idaho Conference. But with just two returning starters, the Hawks won their ninth straight district title and found themselves playing for a state title again.

“A lot of it is just heart and grit,” Murphy said. “The kids, they believe. They kept their chin up and battled for each other.”

Skyview Volleyball 6.JPG
Skyview’s Gracie Delbo sets up a teammate for a spike in the Idaho 5A state volleyball championship game against Thunder Ridge Saturday in Post Falls. Loren Benoit Coeur d'Alene Press

KUNA TAKES THIRD IN 4A

The Kavemen (14-7) earned the best finish in program history with the third-place trophy from the 4A tournament.

Kuna was the only Treasure Valley team to win its opening two games at state. But it fell to perennial East Idaho powers Bonneville and Century in back-to-back matches Saturday to finish third.

Bonneville (38-6) topped Century in three sets to win its 10th state title and third in the last four years.

FRUITLAND SECOND IN 3A

The Grizzlies (19-3) rebounded from a five-set loss to Sugar-Salem on Friday to earn a rematch in the finals. But the Diggers swept Fruitland 25-15, 25-19, 25-13 to win their eighth title and third in four years.

NAMPA CHRISTIAN FALLS JUST SHORT

The Trojans rebounded from a five-set loss in the opening round to claw their way back to the finals. But Firth denied them a shot at their 10th state title with a 25-22, 25-16, 19-25, 25-13 win.

AMBROSE, SALMON RIVER 2ND AGAIN

Ambrose (1A Division I) and Salmon River (1A Division II) made it back to the state finals for the second year in a row. But both finished shy of their first state titles.

Troy topped Ambrose in the finals for the second year in a row, rolling to a 25-13, 25-21, 25-8 victory.

Watersprings of Idaho Falls dispatched Salmon River 25-9, 25-14, 25-5 for the 1A Division II crown.

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Michael Lycklama has covered Idaho high school sports since 2007. He’s won national awards for his work uncovering the stories of the Treasure Valley’s best athletes and investigating behind-the-scenes trends.If you like seeing stories like this, please consider supporting our work with a digital subscription to the Idaho Statesman.
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