ST. GEORGE – Region 9 teams have already begun action in volleyball and again look to dominate after placing three teams in the state’s final four last year.
Three teams made coaching changes. Hurricane and Cedar will be led by Nicole Koehler and Nicole Anglin, respectively, while Dixie welcomes back Stacy Leavitt, who stepped down three years ago to spend more time with her family.
Snow Canyon sits clearly in the No. 1 position in the preseason coaches poll. The Lady Warriors posted a 26-3 record last year and beat Morgan in the 2014 state championship. Returning for Snow Canyon is the Gatorade Utah Player of the Year, Alexsa “Crash” Parker.
The teams will make their way through several preseason tournaments in late August and early September, with region play beginning Sept. 15.
Parker was unanimously chosen to repeat as Player of the Year by the coaches who voted. Below are the polls and where the teams are picked to finish, as well as the players receiving votes for player of the year (coaches were not allowed to select their own players):
TEAMS PREDICTED FINISH
1. Snow Canyon 36
2. Desert Hills 27
3. Dixie 25
4. Pine View 18
5. Hurricane 11
6. Cedar 9
Player of the Year votes
1. Alexsa Parker (SC)
2. Katie Fisher (Dixie)
3. Tiera Orr (DH)
4 (tied). Hailee Tanner (DH)
Rachel Winters (DH)
Deandre Bowers (Dixie)
Hannah Nyberg (Dixie)
Shaylee Reed (SC)
Others receiving votes: Candy McGuire (PV), Karie Marshall (Hurr), Ashley Van Sleet (Ced)
Nicole Anglin takes over for Oscar Fakahua after coaching the freshman team last year.
The team will be led by senior team captains Ashley Van Sleet (OH) and Hannah Williams (MB). Senior Ashland Ogden also returns at the outside but is currently dealing with concussion issues and has yet to be cleared to play. Senior Natalie Evans also brings experience in the middle. Junior Katelyn Armstrong also saw considerable time in the middle last year while junior Kylie Seals is the returning starter at setter.
The Thunder finished third in the state tournament last year, defeating Dixie in the consolation game. Desert Hills also saw some success in the season by beating the eventual state champs. The squad is picked to finish second behind Snow Canyon in region this year.
Desert Hills will be captained by seniors Tiera Orr (OH) and Hailee Tanner (S). Junior Rachel Winters has moved from the middle to the outside this year. Coach Jill Swaney, who stepped down briefly from the job before deciding to return to the team, expects to see sophomore Madison Clark get a lot of playing time. “Madison (Clark) is adept at many positions,” she said. “That versatility will keep her in the rotation.”
Coach Stacy Leavitt returns after a three-year hiatus. “I took some time off because my boys were approaching high school,” said Leavitt. “I wanted to be able to spend more time with them.” Leavitt’s youngest son encouraged her to return to something she really enjoys. Leavitt inherited a team that was last year’s tournament surprise, making it to the final four before dropping the last two games.
The Flyers are led by seniors Katie Fisher (OH), a transfer from Snow Canyon, and Hannah Nyberg (L). Also returning in the middle is junior Deandre Bowers. Newcomers expecting to see a lot of action are junior setter Risha TiaTia and sophomore outside hitters Tyra Stillson and Emily Hamill.
The Tigers will be coached by newcomer Nicole Koehler, who will take the reins after leading the Dixie State team to the Division II Sweet 16 last year as a player. The Tigers have good experience returning.
The team will be captained by seniors Keri Marshall (OH) and Ellie McDonald (MB). Another returning starter is senior Morgan Huntsman (MB). Moving up from the JV to start this year are junior Hollie Isom at libero and sophomore Gordon Lynn Sefita at setter. “Gordon has improved greatly in such a short time,” said Koehler. “She has been getting her sets down and the girls have meshed well with her.”
Hurricane will travel to Panguitch Wednesday night and Delta on Thursday night for non-region action.
Coach Kelly Murdock puts the Lady Panthers in the same conversation as Snow Canyon, Desert Hills and Dixie. “We have been playing very well,” said Murdock. “You have to give Snow Canyon a slight edge based on last year’s performance. But the other three teams can all beat each other on any given night with the talent they have.”
Pine View is laden with experience and talent. On the outside will be Sierra Costas and Natasha Fiame. In the Middle are Megan Hinefee and Sara Pierce. Tiffany Griffith will resume as libero. Junior setter Cassidy Murdock and junior outside hitter Candy Maguire will also start and see plenty of action.
Coach Alaina Parker said her team carries a target as the defending state champions. “We return not only the player of the year,” said Parker. “But also a squad of girls that have played together since the fifth grade.”
Four seniors return as starters. In addition to Crash Parker are Shaylee Reed (S), Sidney Hoskins (MB) and Mikenna Durante (OH). Up and comers that will also see plenty of action are junio setter Camryn Johnson, junior middle blocker Allie Dunston and freshman middle blocker Sammi Johnston.
Coach Parker has already announced that she will retire as volleyball coach at the end of the season, so the ultra-talented Warriors also have motivation to play well for their departing coach. Parker has been head volleyball coach for 15 years at SCHS.
Snow Canyon will host Union on Thursday.
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