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Statewide Volleyball Preview
From dark horses to dynasties, check out what teams you should keep your eye on in 2020
Published: 9/5/2020 12:09:34 PM


The 2019 state volleyball playoff saw East Idaho teams dominate the later rounds.

Two of Idaho’s top three 5A finishers both hailed from District 5-6, with Thunder Ridge and Madison securing first and third place, respectively. In 2020, teams from North Idaho and the Treasure Valley have their sights set on the four-team conference.

In the panhandle, Lake City and Coeur d’Alene represented the 5A Inland Empire’s best shot at a championship appearance. The Vikings, however, fell to the Bobcats 3-1 in the second round, while Lake City dropped its first state game to Eagle 3-1. Coeur d’Alene Coach Joyce Nida said this season, her roster of seniors should be in prime position to finish atop the Inland Empire once again. As long as her team can stay healthy, Nida said, a state title might be in the Vikings’ future. 

“They know they are earning victories every practice and conditioning session with their attitudes and work ethic,” she said. “Last season, we had physical struggles that were not in our control.  We are trying to be more proactive with injuries this season.”

Angel Goggin plans to lock down the middle, as Nida said she fully expects her star returner to lead in kills and blocks this season. Sarah Wilkey, meanwhile, returns from injury and brings a plethora of creative shots to the Viking offensive arsenal.

With more senior leadership, Nida said she hopes should the injury bug once again visit Coeur d’Alene, her veterans will step up and keep the team from imploding down the stretch. 

“We had a lot of injuries and illnesses that took a toll mid-to-late season. Seemed we were holding only a thread physically by the time we were at state.  We had all the pieces but just no glue to hold them together,” Nida said. “They were and are a versatile team.  We had and still have a lot of depth but with more experience this season.”

In the Southern Idaho Conference, Timberline and Skyview finished as the league leaders, with the Hawks going undefeated in conference play en route to a second-place finish in the state tournament. But with graduation taking a toll on all teams in Boise, plenty of opportunities to remain for a dark horse. 


Much like 5A, the 4A classification houses a strong core of East Idaho teams well accustomed with storming through the state playoffs. 

Bonneville, Century and Kuna rounded out the top three finishers from last year’s tournament. All three topped their respective conference, with the Bees accumulating more than double the overall wins (19) than their next closest High Country Conference competitor, Skyline (9).

But the veteran Bonneville team is no more, as 2019’s Gatorade Player of the Year Makayla Sorensen departed after graduation. Sorensen’s supporting cast in Sadie Lott, Alexis McMurtrey and Maely Harrigfeld also graduated last spring, leaving the Bees without much of the talent that helped them secure three of the state’s last four championships. 

“We have some holes to fill,” said Coach Chantal McMurtrey. “This is a completely different team that will take some time to grow into our system.  Last year's team was extremely athletic and ran a very fast tempo, layered offense.  We will look to keep it simpler this year with our younger team.  We always serve tough and focus on defense.”

In their place, McMurtrey said she’ll be leaning on senior Mariah Jardine, a four-year starter familiar with Bonneville’s winning ways. 

“She is long and athletic and can find different ways to score,” McMurtrey said. “She leads a young team this year.”

One team looking to upset the new-look Bees will be the Shelley Russets, led by junior Alexis Leckington. Head Coach Savannah Leckington said this year’s team will be playing with a chip on its shoulder after a grueling 6-14 2019 regular season. 

“No matter where they were seeded they had a goal to prove to themselves and others at the district tournament that they were better than their record,” Leckington said. “They persevered through a lot of really challenging things on and off the court and it showed in how they became stronger as a team over the season and never gave up. They loved the game and each other.”

When it comes to Shelley’s up and coming underclassmen, Leckington said freshman outside hitter Binley Cannon has impressed at the dawn of the new season. 

“Although young and new to the varsity level she is very athletic and strong,” she said. “She has a great arm and tough serve and has already got a number of aces.”

While Century earned the top spot in the Great Basin, the Wood River Wolverines were not far behind, losing just a pair of conference matchups. 

Wood River’s first state appearance in seven years ended all too soon after Round 1, but Coach Kristyn Rutland said she fully expects her 2020 team to reach that mark once again. Samantha Chambers and Willa Laski bring dynamic talent to the court, Rutland said, after the Wolverines lost seven key seniors from last year’s roster. 

After just a single win in 2019, Canyon Ridge turned over a new leaf this season, hiring Linsey Noorlander as head coach. 

Noorlander, while still gaining a footing in the Riverhawk facilities, said she expects her team to turn heads in the 4A Great Basin Conference. While it’s a long road to knocking off the Diamondbacks, Noorlander said players like Lanie Elliot will provide the necessary leadership to help improve Canyon Ridge’s win total from a year ago. 

Twin Falls rounds out the East Idaho landscape, with the Bruins looking to finish higher than their fourth-place ranking in 2019. 

“We finished in the middle of the pack last year in the conference and we did not qualify for state,” said coach Andria Harshman. “This year's team is hungry as a result and they are working hard to play every minute like it's their last.”

Harshman said her tenacious trio of Brinley Iverson, Brenley Hansen and Brinley Solosabal should prove to be a lethal combination as Twin Falls looks to take down the Diamondbacks. Iverson brings stellar defense to the Bruins outside, Harshman said, while Hansen’s quick, explosive play in the middle coupled with Solosabal’s unique setter/hitter combo should help Twin Falls skyrocket into conference contention. 

In the SIC, three teams reached the state playoffs — Kuna, Ridgevue and Bishop Kelly. The Kavemen were the lone representatives from District Three to place, rounding out a 14-7 season. 

But on their tail in the final conference standings, the Middleton Vikings will look to avenge last year’s district playoff loss that prevented a state tournament appearance. 

“We weren't expected to be as good as we lost many starters the year before,” said Coach Taci Morris. “We had a great regular season, but struggled to live up to our potential in the postseason. We also had a key injury to one of our middle blockers.”

Senior outside hitter Carissa Chainey marks the sole all-conference returner to the Vikings. Chainey is joined by junior Casidy Fried to help fill the gaps left by Middleton’s five graduated starters. 

The pair will be tasked with not letting another district playoff implosion take place. Ridgevue ensured Middleton’s early exit, and Coach Kaitlyn Glasgow said last year’s upshot team should become this year’s conference favorite. 

“Last year our team was resilient. We had big goals for our team and making it to state was one of them,” Glasgow said. “This year, our team has the same expectations going into league, we know it won't be an easy road ahead of us but we are willing to put in the work to be a top contender in the league and to earn our way back to state.”

While Columbia finished in the bottom half of the SIC, Coach Cathy Curtis said her squad finally has a core of lockdown players to carry the team to the postseason. 

“Jeanice Gamez is a great outside hitter and a well-rounded player. Mylie Mills has a huge block and hits a mean ball. Trina Suldan is a smart player who you do not want to take your eyes off of,” Curtis said. 

Curtis graduated eight seniors off last year’s squad. With a rejuvenated, younger roster, the Wildcat coach said she hopes her team can overcome the tribulations of last season and attack the net with a new-found aggression.  

“Last season, we had a great team, but did not have a go to player, so missed going to state. We played great defense and we hope to continue that tradition,” she said. “We struggle with size. It is tough to change when you do not have much height in your line up.”


The Diggers capped off yet another state championship season in 2019, marking their third title in four years.

“Last season, our team was coming off a second-place finish at the state tournament and not happy about losing the title,” said Coach Cami Dodson. “That fueled a drive to reset goals and work toward changing the ending which they did by winning the state tournament last year.”

Junior outside hitter Katie Miller hopes to notch Sugar-Salem a seventh state championship, as her, Mardee Fillmore, Natalyah Nead and Kimbrly Pannell make a return to the court. 

“Last year, we were able to gain a lot of court experience for the younger players and establish a threat from every position on the court,” Dodson said. “At times, we struggle with consistency, which has been the main focus of our current season, especially with new players in key positions.”

To take home 2019’s trophy, the Diggers shut out second-place Fruitland, something no 3A team managed to accomplish against the Grizzlies. Fruitand topped last year’s Snake River Valley Conference standings, going a perfect 8-0. 

Coach Rena Sitz returns seven players from last year’s team, including Chanlar O’Neil, Myah Gibb, Madison Scott and Maycee Grrosvenor. Sitz said she has high hopes for this year’s squad which learned plenty of on-the-court and off-the-court maturity for last year’s seniors. 

“Our team last season was one of the easiest teams I’ve ever coached. They could run practice by themselves, they were that self- disciplined, driven and motivated,” Sitz said. “They played excellent team ball and that has continued this season.”

But with just two seniors on the roster, Fruitland’s path to the state tournament could prove more difficult than in years past. 

We will work on our young athletes following in the footsteps of those that came before them,” she said. “We practice like every day is our last.”

Eager to return to the championship game, the Filer Wildcats failed to defend their state title in 2019, losing to Sugar-Salem 3-1 in the semifinals. 

The Wildcats locked up the 3A Sawtooth Central Conference in 2019, and coach Tanya Beard said there’s plenty of work to do if her team plans on punching a ticket to the state tournament. 

Junior setter Alexis Monson returns to the team, while senior Ella Fishcer plans to help on the outside.

The Gooding Senators, meanwhile, nearly reached the critical third-place game for a chance at a championship appearance, defeating Timberlake and Kellogg before falling to Fruitland. Coach Trica Adkinson returns junior Alex Roe, a holdover from last year’s surprise Senator squad. But if Gooding wants a district title, Adkinson said on-the-court communication needs to improve. 

“We worked hard all season trying to reach their goal of attending state.  I think we are on the same path this year,” she said. “I think we could be the team that surprises everyone this year.  We are great defensively and our no-quit attitude will make things very interesting.”

On the outside looking in, Homedale hopes to make the leap from conference also-ran to conference contender. The SRV’s third-place finisher returns Bella Smith, Ainslee Evans, Kaitlyn Missamore, Kenzie Miller and Kenna McKay. The Trojans also welcomed first-year head coach Evonne McGuire to the program, who spent three previous years at the Trojans. 

“As a new coaching staff, we are looking forward to the season and the success it brings. We have a talented group of girls, on all three teams, and are excited to begin playing,” Mcguire said. 


The Firth Panthers brought forth a defense unlike any other in the 2019 state tournament, outsourcing opponents 12-2 en route to a championship. With the help of Kiley Mcham and Liberty Park, the Panthers and Coach Elda Park look well in position to repeat last year’s success.

Mecham, a four-year starter on the outside, helped Firth win its first state tournament in six years. Park said her ability to get around a block sets her apart from other outside hitters in 2A play. Park, a senior Libero, leads the locker room, her head coach said, while keeping the court clean around her. 

“Not much hits the floor around her,” Coach Park said. “She makes everyone play better defense around her.”

The Panthers lost a host of seniors last offseason, decimating a strong 2019 defensive unit. To replace outside hitter Jordyn Adams, Park said Brooklyn will fill in, while sophomore Rylee Nielson replaces Hailey Gee. 

2018’s state champion Malad also topped its conference — 2A South East Idaho — but fell in the quarterfinals to the Panthers. 

In the Treasure Valley, Nampa Christian hopes to end with more than a second-place trophy after falling 3-1 to Firth in the final. The Trojans lost just three times in 2019. 


Three teams finished with five-plus wins in the 1ADI Whitepine League, but only one managed to string together enough wins to secure a state title. 

The Troy Trojans managed four straight shutouts to close the season, shutting out each of their state playoff opponents. 

Coach Deborah Blazzard said despite the impressive scores, Troy prided itself on its offensive performance, while defense remains to be an area of improvement. 

Morgan Blazzard and Issabelle Raauch return to the team, a pair of juniors filling in for four lost seniors off last year’s squad. Blizzard earned a first-team all-state selection in 2019, and Raauch was slotted on the second team. 

Ambrose, the final victim of Troy’s 2019 conquest, hopes to post a better championship showing than last year's 3-0 shutout. 

“This year, we will focus heavily on defense as we prepare to face bigger and faster hitters across the net, so we will aim to extend every rally and frustrate our opponents with relentless pursuit and hustle,” said Coach Sierra Wells. “We have worked all summer on court awareness and serving tough so we can poke holes in our opponents’ offense and find open court when we are attacking.”

Wells will rely on senior libero Jordan Endebrock to help lead a younger Archer team to the playoffs. 

Genesee, Idaho’s third-place finisher, welcomes back senior outside hitter Claira Osborne to lead the offense through a tough Whitepine League slate. 

“I expect Claira to put on an offensive show a lot of nights and is also one of the most consistent passers and defenders on our team,” said Coach Pete Crowley. “We had a great season overall, but just couldn't find a way to get past Troy.”

Potlatch and Prairie round out a competitive Whitepine League. The Loggers return Olivia Wise, Alyssa Felton and Josie Larson from last season’s fourth-place team. 

Further south, the Greenleaf Grizzlies hope to disrupt the 1ADI Western Idaho Conference, led by Coach Loma Bittick and senior Olivia Fisk. Kiera Omerara will return outside and Heather Wagner fills in at middle blocker. Freshman Hope Miller joins the team as a setter/hitter, bringing a stellar work ethic to the Grizzlies. 

“Last season, we were a young, inexperienced team that made perseverance our motto.  Through the summer and fall we have worked at becoming a unit, with each player playing her role,” Bittick said. “Though defense is a strength, we have shown improvement offensively and hope to continue to do that throughout the season.”

Lighthouse Christain, formerly a 1ADII team, joins the 1ADI ranks after this summer’s classification realignment. Coach Tobie Helman said fans can count on Kynlee Thorton to help the Lions repeat their state tournament run at a higher level. 

Wallace brings in a host of new and old talent, including Jaden House and Riley Valley. Savannah Smith and Tia Hendrick make their debut at the varsity level, along with sophomore Kynadee Gilmore. 

“Our strength this year will be our offensive attack,” said Wallace Coach Katie Bauer. “Our weakness last year was our serving and we need to be better at the service line to become more competitive.”


Without traditional power Lighthouse Christian in Idaho’s smallest classification, plenty of teams are looking to establish themselves as the new dynasty in Gem State volleyball.

Watersprings, 2017’s and 2019’s state champion, finished 2020 a perfect 26-0 on the season, shutting out opponents in a commanding fashion during last year’s state tournament. 

Teams like Grace Lutheran, which also competes in the 1ADII Rocky Mountain Conference, will be eyeing a chance to get one over on the ever-dominant Warriors. 

“As a relatively new school in what I would argue to be one of the best 1ADII conferences in the state, success is really difficult to come by,” said Grace Lutheran Coach Ryan Strehlow. “We need to stay together as a team and even if we get down quick we need to stay in games to the last point.”

Strehlow said junior outside hitter Emma Grayson has started to come into her own, with a solid offseason showing on the back row. Strehlow said she should provide the veteran experience his team needs to compete in the conference.

In the Long Pin, Tri-Valley and Horseshoe Bend will attempt to track down the recent success of the Salmon River Savages, last year’s state runner-up.

The Mustangs, state champs in 2018, failed to qualify for the tournament just a year removed from their championship run. 

“Last season, our main downfall was team chemistry and drive,” said Horseshoe Bend Coach Sharsti Moore. “Without those two things, there was no way we were going to be successful. Thankfully, this season has already started off in the right direction and I anticipate us doing very well because of it.”

The Mustangs will once again be young in 2020, returning just one senior in libero Natalie Newell. Moore brings in five freshmen to help fill out the roster, giving Horseshoe Bend similar youth to last season. 

“Half of our starters will be freshmen, but those freshmen have a lot of talent,” Moore said. “I am looking forward to this season and the growth we will make.”

The Tri-Valley Titans managed to knock off the defending champs in last year’s state tournament, qualifying them for state. But losses to Lighthouse Christian and Salmon River prevented the Titans from advancing. 

“We had a great season placing making it to state we had a couple of injuries right before and during that didn’t allow us to play at our full potential,” said Tri-Valley Coach Jennifer Uhlenkott.

Tri-Valley returns senior middle Zoe Ertel, who will help bring valuable tournament experience to a young squad. 


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