Judy Kight’s Mead Panthers, a perennial power, are the team to beat. With 11 seniors returning from last year’s team – including three from the all-GSL first team – the Panthers are focused on another league title, regional title and to improve on last year’s disappointing trophy-less finish at the state tournament. The league seems to be divided into three levels of competitiveness, with a lot of grey in the middle of the pack. Mead and Mt. Spokane – which made an appearance in last year’s State 3A tournament – meet on Thursday in what should be one of the best matches of the season. University has dealt with early injuries but will still be a strong competitor in the top four. Players to watch: Hannah Zalopany (Mead), Kennadie Clute (Mt. Spokane), Kayleigh Valley (U-Hi), Darby Santos (Shadle Park), Paige Montgomery (Mead), Jonni Dorr (Mead), Dana Norris (Mead), Bianna Nikdel (Gonzaga Prep) and Taylor Butters (Central Valley).
5A: Post Falls, last year’s state runner-up, lost a lot of talent to graduation (including all-IEL first-teamers Ashley Jibby, Allison Meehan and Tori Bertch) and the losses have shown early for the young Trojans. League MVP Kylie Curtis returns for Lake City – a semifinalist at last year’s state tourney – and Kayla McGlathery, a first-team pick last season, returns for Coeur d’Alene. Lewiston has started strong, led by last year’s IEL newcomer of the year, setter Makayla Wilson, who is off to a strong start in her sophomore season for the undefeated Bengals. Lake City and Coeur d’Alene aren’t far behind, and it could go either way for the second- and third-place finish in the league.
4A: Sandpoint, coming off an appearance at the 4A state tournament last season, is ahead of the pack so far with wins over Moscow and Lakeland, led by returning first-team all-leaguer, junior Hannah Neumann. Reigning league Newcomer of the Year, junior Rachael Smith, returns for Moscow.
It’s already been interesting to see how the addition of Colville – defending State 1A champion – is affecting the competitive league. The Indians are undefeated, with showdowns against East Valley and Pullman quickly approaching. Players to watch include: West Valley senior outside hitter Sequoia Lofton and Pullman senior outside hitter Brittany Harvey, both returning All-GNL first-team picks; and senior OH Liz Gill (Cheney) and EV senior middle hitter Sam Geibel, returning second-team selections. Clarkston lost two strong outside hitters to graduation, and the young WV Eagles lost all-league setter Aaliyah Ashley-Meek, while Pullman lost all-league libero April Oviatt.
|GSL predicted order of finish||7. Gonzaga Prep|
|1. Mead||4. University||8. Rogers|
|2. Mt. Spokane||5. Shadle Park||9. North Central|
|3. Central Valley||6. Lewis and Clark||10. Ferris|
|IEL predicted order of finish||4A: 1. Sandpoint|
|5A: 1. Lewiston||3. Coeur d’Alene||2. Lakeland|
|2. Lake City||4. Post Falls||3. Moscow|
|GNL predicted order of finish||5. Clarkston|
|1. Colville||3. East Valley||6. West Valley|
|2. Pullman||4. Cheney||7. Deer Park|