Coach: Lisa Pom-Arleau, fourth season
Last year’s league record: 6-5 (fifth)
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Returning starters: Elli Fox, sr., libero; Maddie Wolter, jr., defensive specialist/outside hitter; Kim Cook, sr., middle hitter/OH
Breakdown: The Braves came a game short of advancing out of the District Three tournament last season, and are ready to push themselves a step further in 2015. They do lose 5A SIC player of the year Kate Tsourmas, who is now at Westminster, but have three starters back with experience. Pom-Arleau expects defense to be a strength, and the Braves proved that by taking preseason favorite Eagle to five games last week.
Coach: Kate Newbery, first season
Last year’s league record: 3-8 (ninth)
Returning starters: Kel Bilger, sr., OH (second team all-conference); Chasslyn Shepard, jr., MH; Kiana Corpus, jr., L/DS
Breakdown: The Lions lost their setter to graduation, and inexperience at the varsity level at that key position will put pressure on their returners early. Bilger, a team captain, should be one of those standouts as she has verbally committed to compete for Northwest University. Newbery says communication on the court will be important.
Coach: Gina Watson, third season
Last year’s league record: 5-6 (seventh)
Returning starters: Rachel ten Doeschate, sr., opposite (second team); Maddy Johnson, sr., MH (honorable mention)
Breakdown: The Eagles will rely heavily on ten Doeschate and Johnson as they will have either a junior (Grace Doughty) or sophomore (Tiamone Peko) stepping into a starting role at setter. “Our team has tremendous synergy and passion on the floor,” said Watson, who hopes to see her team improve its overall hitting percentage and contend for a playoff spot.
Coach: Heather Ward, third season
Last year’s league record: 9-2 (second)
Returning starters: Allison O’Harra, jr., MH (honorable mention); Megan Nelson, sr., setter (honorable mention); Savannah Ipsen, sr., rightside (second team)
Breakdown: Plenty of firepower returns for last year’s district tournament runner-up, and the Patriots’ offense is expected to get even faster with the return of their senior setter. Both O’Harra and Ipsen have offers to play in college, Ward said. The Patriots should be strong in the middle and rightside, but must replace first-team all-conference outside hitter Mackenzie Keating.
Coach: Cathy Curtis, third season
Last year’s league record: 2-9 (11th)
Returning starters: Brooke Gamel, sr., S (honorable mention); Kaitlyn Plischke, so., S; Gonya Lada, sr., OH (second team); Maddie Loar, sr., MH (honorable mention); Maiya Hammer, so., OH; Alexandra Knottingham, so., MH
Breakdown: The move up to the 5A SIC wasn’t easy on the Wildcats last season, but they should be much stronger in 2015 with an experienced lineup. Gamel and Plischke combined for 398 assists last season, and Lada leads all returners with 186 kills and 95 digs last season. Curtis says the Wildcats will continue to be scrappy on defense and fight for every point. “We are still the smallest school in the 5A division, but we want to play our best and compete at each and every match,” Curtis said.
Coach: Michelle Dodds, second season
Last year’s league record: 10-1 (first)
Returning starters: Kelly Driscoll, sr., OH (honorable mention); Gretchen Litzsinger, sr., OH; Audrey Lodge, sr., MH; Kynady Greear, sr., MH
Breakdown: Last year’s regular-season champions stumbled to a sixth-place finish at the district tournament and lost in a state play-in game, but four starters are back and eager for redemption. The Mustangs will need to replace first-teamers Mali Sawyer and Carlie Howard, but got the nod from coaches as the early favorite. Driscoll is committed to Saint Martin’s and Litzsinger to Southern Oregon. “We had a great offseason,” Dodds said.
Coach: Chelsea Keller, second season
Last year’s league record: 3-8 (10th)
Returning starters: Allie Thomas, sr., S; Alex Atkinson, sr., S; Jordan Sluder, sr., MH; Anna Pinkerman, so., L
Breakdown: The Warriors lost one outside hitter to transfer and another to an injury, which means they won’t have as much varsity experience as expected. Keller plans to put an emphasis on defense and tough serving. “Our strength is working as a team and never giving up,” Keller said.
MOUNTAIN VIEW MAVERICKS
Coach: Allison Sletager, first season
Last year’s league record: 5-6 (sixth)
Returning starters: Ariah Joynder, jr., OH; Belle Anderson, so., MH; Kenzie Willis, sr., OH
Breakdown: The Mavericks advanced to state last season for the first time in program history and have three starters back to build on that experience. Willis is committed to play for Westminster and will be among the leaders of an offense Sletager anticipates will be very strong. “The girls are playing with a lot of confidence, playing as a team and working extremely hard,” Sletager said.
Coach: Gina Radford, second season
Last year’s league record: 1-10 (12th)
Returning starters: Sabrina Radford, jr., S/RS (honorable mention); Kayleigh Hibbard, so., L; Jill Hughers, so., OH; Sydney Weatherston, sr., MH/RS; McKenzie Bowman, so., MH; Hannah Herring, jr., RS; Katherine Tiffany, jr., OH
Breakdown: With seven players back who started at least half of the Bulldogs’ games last season, expectations are on the rise in the program. Nampa will lean on strong serving and solid passing to set up their offense. “We have better ball control than last year, and we are scrappier than last year,” Radford said.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN GRIZZLIES
Coach: Judyann Balukoff, second season
Last year’s league record: 9-2 (third)
Returning starters: Shannan Cambron, jr., S (honorable mention); Tori Gehring, jr., MH (honorable mention); Kate Lyon, jr., L
Breakdown: The Grizzlies took third at last year’s district tournament and fourth at state. While many of their top hitters from a year ago have graduated, the Grizzlies return the backbone of their offense in Cambron, who contributed 867 assists and 49 service aces. Gehring has the most experience at the net with 128 kills and 77 blocks last fall. Balukoff cites serving as a strength. “We are consistent and have have several very tough servers,” she said.
Coach: Carol Klein, first season
Last year’s league record: 4-7 (eighth)
Returning starters: Lexi Ward, sr., OH; Ellie Scott, sr., MH; Brooke Foster, jr., OH; Makayla Martinez, sr., S; Natalia DeMordaunt, sr., RS; Abbey Schwager, jr., S
Breakdown: The Wolves will be one of the most experienced teams in the conference with six players back who saw starting time last season. Ward has committed to Northwest Nazarene and will be a major contributor in both the front and back rows. “We will be a very well-rounded team with depth at every position,” Klein said. Although Klein is a first-year coach, she will have plenty of senior leadership to lean on.
Coach: Allison Lodahl, first season
Last year’s league record: 9-2 (fourth)
Returning starters: Jade Crowe, sr., L; Kayla Sale, sr., OH (first team); Ashlee Conklin, sr., MH; Page Lookhart, sr., S/OH (honorable mention)
Breakdown: The Falcons won the district title by forcing an if-necessary match with Centennial, and they also had the best finish among Valley teams (third) at state. Replacing Bailey Irwin, now a setter at Weber State, will be a challenge, but Sale and Lookhart are solid threats on the outside. Lookhart will run a 6-2 alongside sophomore setter Sierra Wolff. “Our strength this season will be our defense,” Lodahl said.