Skyview coach Kevin Murphy called his team into a huddle before practice Tuesday, even though he didn’t have any grand speeches to deliver.
He only needed one breath to relay his message.
“Let’s practice like we want to win this week,” he said plainly, eliciting a scream from players tired of finishing short of their elusive first state championship.
Skyview (12-1) finished third at the 4A state tournament each of the past three years. While the Hawks have smothered the north end of their gym with volleyball banners thanks to five straight district titles and 11 in the past 13 years, the program has yet to hang a banner on the south wall, reserved for state titles.
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“It’s really our last go at things,” senior rightside hitter Annie Anderson said. “I know that we all get tired of not seeing our banner up on the wall. So that’s what we’re trying to accomplish this year.”
Skyview opens the two-day tournament against Canyon Ridge at 11 a.m. MT Friday at Coeur d’Alene High. The Hawks maintain they’re not looking past anyone. But five-time defending champion Century (33-6, including tournaments) looms on the opposite side of the bracket, a program that has had Skyview’s number.
Each of the Diamondbacks’ five titles includes a victory over Skyview.
“I think everybody has their eye on Century,” Murphy said. “When you’ve won it five years in row, how can you not?”
Skyview enters with possibly its best chance in years to end Century’s dominance. The Hawks return four starters from last year’s third-place team — Anderson, outside hitters Hailee Ackerman and Dani Nay, as well as middle blocker Olivia Bradley. They finished third at the 64-team Linda Sheridan Classic in Spokane and seventh at the ASICS Rocky Mountain Champions Classic outside of Salt Lake City.
But the feather in their cap came at the Bonneville-Hillcrest Classic in Idaho Falls, where Skyview swept Century in the best-of-three championship match.
“We could see ourselves improving over each game, and that’s really important because this is the last part of the season,” Ackerman said. “This is the part where we have to show our talent.”
But a late September victory over Century doesn’t carry over into the state tournament. And Skyview has knocked off the Diamondbacks in the regular season before, only to fall to them at state.
To hang that elusive first banner on the south wall at Skyview, the Hawks know they’ll face Century at some point this weekend. And they’ll need to finally break through.
“I think these kids know, they’re familiar with — I don’t want to say the history,” Murphy said. “But they’re aware Century is the top of the list, the top dog.”