Looking back at District 6’s title haul

Bonneville’s Alexis McMurtrey (9) celebrates with her teammates after defeating Lake City in four sets in Saturday’s 5A state championship match at Coeur d’Alene High School.

After the first day of the 5A state volleyball tournament in Coeur d’Alene, Lake City was on Bonneville’s radar.

Like the Bees, the Timberwolves had gone 2-0 on the opening day. Outside hitters Ashley Kaufman and Arlaina Stephenson caught Bonneville’s attention, as did setter Klaire Mitchell, whom Bonneville head coach Chantal McMurtrey compared to 2012 Idaho Falls graduate, and former Idaho State setter, Hayley Farrer.

Upon scouting Lake City, the Bees weren’t entirely surprised when they ended up playing the Timberwolves twice Saturday.

“I figured it would be either them or Madison,” McMurtrey said. “Lake City had a crazy good setter. She was really smooth and she set a really fast tempo ball to her two outsides. We had to work for every point in our games against them.”

The Bees swept the Timberwolves 25-17, 25-22, 25-17 in Saturday’s semifinals and 25-23, 23-25, 25-22, 25-14 in the championship match later in the day to wrap up a 40-4 season. Sophomores Makayla Sorensen and Sadie Lott, both members of last year’s state championship team, said Saturday’s repeat title felt sweeter.

The reason? Last year’s win over Timberline was a three-set sweep. Saturday’s was an intense four-set battle with Lake City.

“This year we had to work for it,” Lott said Tuesday. “Lots of us started to cry, jumping up and down and getting goosebumps all over. Just talking about it gives me goosebumps.”

Bonneville also made a bit of history Saturday. It was not only their ninth title in program history (the most volleyball titles by a District 6 school) across 5A and 4A classifications, but also the program’s first back-to-back titles. The Bees had come close before, getting second in 2003 and first in 2004 and titles in the odd numbered years between 2006 and 2009 while placing second the even numbered years.

“It feels like a dream come true,” Lott said of the repeat titles. “Last year, I never thought I’d be a state champion as a freshman on varsity. It has been an amazing experience.”

While there are similarities between these Bees and past state champions, McMurtrey said the biggest difference is age. Bonneville’s 10-member 2017 roster consisted of three seniors, three juniors, three sophomores and a freshman. The 2009 team had eight seniors while the 2007 team had five.

Much of the Bees, particularly the underclassmen, have been multisport teammates since middle school including several years of club volleyball. McMurtrey said that experience and composure has carried over to their high school seasons.

“They are so calm and collected,” McMurtrey said. “Most people around here have’t gotten to watch them play in super high intensity matches. They’re a foot shorter than anyone on the other side of the net, but they don’t care how tall they are. They rise to the challenge.”

Sorensen is one of the players McMurtrey has coached since age 11. She said years of being teammates has not only provided experience in high pressure situations and familiarity with each other on the court, but with strong friendships.

“I’ve developed friendships with them outside of volleyball, too,” Sorensen said. “The relationship we have helps us on the court and we’re best friends off the court.”

‘Complete disbelief’ for Watersprings

Last year, Watersprings placed third at the 1A Division II state tournament for the first state trophy in any sport in school history.

The Warriors (30-8) took it a step further Saturday, defeating conference opponent Butte County twice in five-set matches to win the school’s first state title. Watersprings had entered state winless against the Pirates this season.

“I just started jumping up and down,” sophomore Abigail Yadon said Tuesday in a phone interview with the Post Register. “I couldn’t believe we actually went out and actually did it. I will be in disbelief on this for the rest of my life.”

Yadon was not alone in her disbelief. Head coach Robyn King said she had hoped to at least match last year’s third-place finish. The title was a result of her young team (nine of the 10 players are underclassmen) stepping up when they needed to.

“I have three freshmen who rotated through the other middle hitter position for us all season,” King said Tuesday by phone. “They had two really critical blocks against Lighthouse (Christian) that I was elated over. They are a phenomenally dedicated group of kids. They peaked at the right time.”

Based on previous meetings with Butte County, King said she didn’t feel any certainty about the title win until the Warriors took a seven-point lead in the fifth set.

“The Butte girls and their coach Jody (Coburn) have been nothing but supportive and gracious to us,” King said. “I didn’t really expect this win. I kept saying to them when I called a timeout, ‘This is not gonna be easy.’”

After four years of commuting to other venues for practices and games, Watersprings got a gym of its own in time for this school year. Now the Warriors have a banner to hang there.

With so many underclassmen on varsity and promising fifth, sixth and seventh grade athletes, King and Yadon both said they hope the banner will be the beginning of more success for Watersprings.

“It’s sometimes frustrating to everyone when people leave the school in the eighth grade and go somewhere else (for sports),” King said. “I’m hopeful that what this will do is encourage people to not only leave their kids at Watersprings, but encourage other kids in the community to put their kids in our school.”

Eighth meeting between Sugar and South decided 3A title

Like the 1A DII title match, Saturday’s 3A title match featured eastern Idaho conference rivals.

It pitted South Fremont and Sugar-Salem against each other for a mind-boggling eighth time this season and was not short of intensity.

“South’s been such a good competitor for us,” Sugar-Salem senior Kayla Luke said Tuesday by phone. “I had a gut feeling I guess that we’d play them for the championship. They’re a very consistent team.”

The numerous previous meetings left the teams with no secrets, causing Sugar-Salem coach Cami Dodson to change things up a bit before state. The tweaks paid off, but Dodson said the Diggers also had to be mentally strong to face a familiar opponent.

“Our girls had to go into the match battle ready with that mindset of ‘we have to fight for everything we get,’” Dodson said Tuesday by phone. “I really think we were prepared for state because we come from such a strong conference.”

Before facing South Fremont, Luke said the Diggers discussed getting the Cougars “out of their heads.” Their solution was humorous, but effective.

“This sounds funny, but we just gave them a new mascot,” Luke said with a laugh. “I don’t know if it worked, but that’s what we were thinking.”

Saturday gave Sugar its seventh title and back-to-back titles for the first time in almost a decade. The Diggers won three in a row from 2006 to 2008 under Trisha Chatterton.

Luke, who was also part of Sugar-Salem’s state runner-up basketball team last year, said she is thankful to have played four years for Digger volleyball.

“To win the stame championship twice is amazing,” Luke said. “You don’t get this strong of a team that comes around a lot. We’re a family in a way. We do have our ups and downs, but that happens. It’s cool to have pretty much my sisters playing with me all the time.”