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Post Falls volleyball caught fire at right time

The Post Falls volleyball team is making its fourth straight trip to the State 5A tournament.

It’s the first time Post Falls takes a team to state with a sub-.500 record. The fact the Trojans qualified is just as rewarding as the last two years when they finished runner-up and fourth, respectively.

“We saw a lot of potential for this team as we got started this year,” Post Falls coach Willow Hanna said. “And we knew they had it in them. We changed a lot of strategies. We changed defenses and changed lineups several times. We also have coached emotional and mental strategies. We came at them with everything we possibly could.”

It paid off last week when the fourth-seeded Trojans knocked off No. 2 Lake City and No. 3 Coeur d’Alene on consecutive nights and then swept Borah of Boise in a play-in match Saturday.

Post Falls (17-22) opens against District III third-place finisher Timberline (13-6) when state begins Friday at Bonneville High School in Idaho Falls. Region I champ Lewiston takes on District III fourth-place team Boise.

The state tourneys return to the double-elimination format, which means a team could lose once and still come back and capture a state title.

The Trojans are led by returning starters Dani Failor (middle blocker), Savannah Hill (rightside hitter) and Brooke Litalien (libero), all three seniors. Junior Brenna Meehan, who saw starter quality minutes at the end of last season, took over setting duties this year.

Post Falls took some lumps against Lewiston, LC and CdA in league play before finding its way last week.

“We had our backs to the wall last week,” Hanna said. “It’s a different place to be in when you’re coming from the bottom. We had nothing to lose. We kind of dug deep to find some hearts and had enough in the end.”

Hanna knows nothing about the Trojans’ opening opponent. And that’s just fine with her.

“Volleyball is different from other sports,” she said. “It doesn’t take very long to figure out what’s happening in a match. I’m a firm believer that you have to handle your side of the court. We’ve been focusing on that this year.”

4A: The Region I champ Sandpoint Bulldogs (22-8) are in a much better place than it has been the past two years.

Sandpoint is making its seventh straight trip to state, and the Bulldogs have their best chance to challenge for a state title since winning it last in 2008.

The Bulldogs open Friday against District IV runner-up Wood River at Skyline High School in Idaho Falls.

“I think maybe we’re going to state with a more realistic viewpoint because we haven’t done so well the last couple of years,” Sandpoint coach Karen Alsager said. “I know how good the other teams are and I’m preparing for it to be rough. We have to be at the top of our game.”

The Bulldogs returned five starters this year. They are seniors Beth Lewis (rs), Megan Rockwell (mb) and Kelli Plaster (defensive specialist) and juniors Hannah Neumann (outside hitter) and Hailey Olin (mb/ds).

“We have a deep team and that’s been our biggest strength,” Alsager said. “We’ve been trying different lineups all season long. A lot of times my girls had more pressure trying to get into the starting lineup than against the opponent we were playing if that makes sense.”

Seven of Sandpoint’s eight losses were to Lake City (three), Lewiston (two), CdA (once) and Post Falls (once).

“In the past the 5A teams haven’t pushed us much but this year they’ve pushed us a lot and helped prepare us,” Alsager said.

3A: District I champ Timberlake (18-11) opens against District VI runner-up Sugar-Salem and District I runner-up Priest River (20-8) goes against District VI champ Shelley in first-round matches in Rexburg.

2A: St. Maries (18-13), in its first year in 2A after dropping from 3A, faces District VI runner-up Ririe when the tourney begins Friday at Hillcrest High School in Idaho Falls.

1A Division II: Mullan (12-1), which is making its first trip to state since 2002, takes on District IV runner-up Lighthouse Christian when the tourney begins Friday at Twin Falls.

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