Here’s all you need to know about North Idaho high school volleyball – Sandpoint.
Sandpoint will dominate all area teams this fall. The Bulldogs are heavily favored to capture an eighth state championship this decade.
The Bulldogs return their team intact. No further explanation is needed.
Just which team will finish a distant runner-up to Sandpoint is the question. And there are plenty of contenders for that spot.
Read on for a look at area teams.
Coeur d’Alene: The Vikings (30-5 overall, 9-1 league) have had a nice run the past three years. But the players who were in the middle of that successful span have graduated.
That leaves coach Carly Curtis with just two starters and one other letterman with experience.
Seniors Shae Carson, who’s switching from middle to outside hitter, and middle hitter Faith Hazard return as starters. After that, Curtis will count on a number of first-time varsity players.
Included in that group are freshman Kylie Curtis (setter), sophomores Anyssa Matheson (OH) and Randi Spencer (back row) and seniors Nicole Demarco (OH), Ellie Matz (MH) and Miranda Todd (OH).
“We have a lot of young talent,” Curtis said. “They’re putting pressure on the older ones. They hustle. They’re going to lay out for ball and work hard to get it over. We don’t look smooth so far. But I like our overall talent. It’s just a matter of putting it in the right positions. In a lot of ways it’s like starting over.”
Post Falls: The Trojans (11-18, 3-7) hope to be in the mix for one of the two state berths.
Post Falls is seeking its first state berth since 1991. In fact, that is the only year the Trojans have qualified for state.
The Trojans return four starters. They are seniors Danielle Meehan (OH), Jalana White (S), Andrew Mohney (MH) and Christine Deitz (OH). They have one other returning letterman in senior libero Marian deTar.
Coach Willow Hanna will also look to senior Rebecca Bauman (MH) and sophomore Tori Bertsch (S).
“I really like these kids,” Hanna said. “They’re really working hard. They’re taking in everything we’re teaching them. We’ve been kind of focusing on their volleyball IQ. Skillwise, this is the best group I’ve had. We’ve been drilling fundamentals for three years. We’re starting to see things come to fruition.”
Lake City: The Timberwolves (11-20, 3-7) welcome a new coach who isn’t a new face around Coeur d’Alene.
Former North Idaho College coach Bret Taylor, who also was the head coach at CdA High for two years, takes over at LC for Jen Kelly, who resigned to spend more time with family.
Taylor has five lettermen, including two starters, to go with a host of inexperienced players. The returning starters are seniors Britta Forsythe (OH) and Hilary Ayers, who Taylor has converted from outside hitter to setter. He may install a 6-2 offense so he can give Ayers a few swings at the ball.
Others who Taylor will count on are seniors Holly Cutler (MH) and Haleigh Frank (right side) and sophomore Jennifer Schuman (OH).
“I like our outside hitting,” Taylor said. “I like their spirit. But we have a lot of work to do.”
Taylor sees his team improving by leaps and bounds the first month.
“We look good at times, but it depends on what day, what hour, what minute,” Taylor said. “By the end of the year you’ll see the best that we have.”
Sandpoint: The Bulldogs (29-2, 9-1) return four starters and five other lettermen.
The returning starters are seniors Koko James (S/RS), who has given an oral commitment to the University of Montana, Piper Wahlin (OH), Christina Johnson (OH) and Kaiti Lunde (MH).
The other returning lettermen are senior Emilie Kuester (defensive specialist); juniors Blake Plaster (DS), Ariel Moe (S/RS) and Sam Buratto (MH); and sophomore Ashley Shepard (MH).
Others who will play are seniors Alissa Millard (DS) and Maddy Emmer (DS) and sophomores Alex Bucholtz (MH/OH) and Mackenzie Jones (S).
Sandpoint participated in the annual jamboree, and the Bulldogs came away thinking that their practices will be tougher than their matches against area teams.
“Our best scrimmages are within our team,” Bulldogs coach Karen Alsager said. “This is the most experienced team I’ve had at Sandpoint. We’ll definitely have to push ourselves at practice.”
Lakeland: The Hawks (16-11) are the exact opposite of Sandpoint in terms of experience.
But Hawks coach Claudia Ebel isn’t hanging her head. She’s excited about her team.
The lone returning starter is senior Alyana Watson (L). The other returning lettermen are seniors Jamie Quillin (OH), Cortney Schelin (OH/RS), Jordan Thomas (S) and Megan Ranberg (OH) and sophomore Maddi Ray (MH).
Ebel will play her roster. Others she will look to are seniors Rachel Grawcock (OH) and Chelsea Campbell (DS), junior Sharon Gardner (OH/RS) and sophomores Kaitlyn Whitesitt (MH) and Sonora Wilkes (S/RS).
“These kids are great,” Ebel said. “I don’t have to give them instruction. They know what to do. We are going to be strong defensively. We have some middles that are inexperienced but we will be putting a lot of pressure on them to put their hands on the ball.”
Timberlake: Things are definitely looking up for the Tigers (6-19, 2-8).
After two seasons not to remember, Timberlake should be able to climb out of the Intermountain League cellar.
The Tigers return five starters. They are seniors Megan Hill (OH), Stevie Pitchett (L) and Jennifer Bitner and juniors Cassie Thompson (MH) and Halee Edelblute (S).
Another returning letterman is senior Amanda Kistler (OH). Others who coach Michelle Garwood will look to are junior Jenny Menson (MH/RS) and sophomores Brooke Murray (S), Kelly Madsen (OH) and Sierra Monti (MH).
“They’re ready to start climbing back to the top (of the league),” Garwood said. “It’s been trying the last couple of years. It’s still going to be a long haul.”
Garwood sees St. Maries and Priest River as the two league favorites.
“I think we’ll be closer to the middle of the pack,” Garwood said.
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