This season, nine area volleyball teams advanced to state. Results ranged from championships to quick exits, so check out the wrap-ups below for more detailed looks at how each team’s state trip unfolded.
Thunder Ridge’s 2020 season didn’t end the way the Titans would have liked.
There’s a catch, though. Those were lofty expectations to meet. Last season, in the school’s second year of existence, Thunder Ridge won the 5A state title.
This season, the Titans returned to state, but they dropped two straight matches, first to Timberline and then to Eagle in the second round of the loser’s bracket.
Thunder Ridge finishes the season with a 34-11 record, a 5A District 5-6 championship and a second straight trip to state.
“We just never really responded,” head coach Keisha Fisher said after her team’s defeat to Timberline on Friday. “We talk about playing one point at a time and don’t move on until that point is over, and I feel like we kind of lived in the last points. We never really looked forward and moved on.”
Earlier this season, when her team had just wrapped up a tournament in Utah, Madison coach Meranda Maestas settled into a restaurant with her husband. He isn’t a coach with the team exactly, but he harbors investment in it, so he asked his wife a question.
“I don’t know why they just won’t roll over and die,” he told Maestas.
If you know anything about the season Madison had — capped by a consolation match win over Eagle on Saturday — you know the question was a fair one.
In September, the Bobcats lost Charity Wilson to injury, watching their key sophomore go down with yet another injury. A month later, the same happened to Maddi Wilcox, who tore her ACL in a key conference matchup with Thunder Ridge.
Madison also saw Aubree Orr miss time with a concussion. Hallie Bagley dislocated her finger. Beth Hunt suffered from shin splints and problems with the arches in her feet.
“Every week, there was something,” Maestas said. “It was like, ‘Well, we’re going to just keep working.’”
So the Bobcats did. They placed second at the 5A District 5-6 tournament and won the consolation title at the 5A state tournament.
Considering the obstacles they hurdled to finish the year, maybe that’s not so bad.
Bonneville coach Chantal McMurtrey, the architect of something resembling a dynasty at the school, admitted something right away ahead of her team’s stay at this year’s 4A state tournament in Kimberly.
“There just wasn’t as much buzzing going on around us,” McMurtrey said.
She was referring to the limited fan attendance because of COVID-19 restrictions, but unfortunately for the Bees, it also described their outing at state.
Bonneville secured third place with a 3-0 win over Burley in the third-place match, but for both McMurtrey and her players, the finish left a sour taste in their mouths.
“They were pretty frustrated,” McMurtrey said. “I think they knew they had that semifinal game and they let it get away. Obviously if we had been in that game, I think we would have been thrilled with third, but we were so close to being in the final. I think they were not necessarily satisfied.”
Part of that has to do with the level of success Bonneville has maintained over the last several years. Since 2015, Bonneville has won three state championships and had two runners-up finishes. In fact, since McMurtrey became Bonneville’s head coach in 2006, she’s led the Bees to five state titles. She has missed the state tournament just twice.
Shelley experienced a more consistent level of success this season than last.
It just didn’t end any differently.
The Russets, who finished the season with a 19-18 record, dropped two straight matches at the 4A state tournament, first to Middleton, then to Twin Falls in the loser’s bracket.
Shelley also went to state in 2019, in head coach Savannah Leckington’s first season, but the Russets also went 0-2 that season.
“I think it was a confidence booster for the girls, just headed into districts,” Leckington said of her team’s wins this year. “They came out really strong for districts, so that was great.
“But there were things, during the season, lessons that they can learn for next year to be able to be even more prepared for state.”
Consider this statistic about Sugar-Salem’s season, which ended in the team’s second straight 3A state title: The Diggers went 32-3 for the year, and in all their wins, they won in sweeps.
In other words, they didn’t drop a set in 3A competition all season.
It resulted in another title for the Diggers, who repeated as champions.
“It’s been a really, really fun season,” coach Cami Dodson said. “The girls, they’re fun to work with. They really dedicate themselves to the game. They don’t complain at practice. They don’t complain about doing extra activities.”
At state, Sugar-Salem swept all three matches, over Timberlake, Parma and Kimberly.
In fact, they did the same in 2017, which also ended in a state title.
If Sugar-Salem isn’t a dynasty yet, it must be close.
A lot came into place this season for West Jefferson. The Panthers returned the majority of their team, and they returned to state for the first time in two years.
West Jefferson didn’t win state, but it won a consolation match over Valley, securing fifth place at the 2A state tournament.
“The girls, they’re a hard-working group of kids,” head coach Raquel Torgerson said. “They bought into the program. They bought into the offseason stuff.”
It showed as the season went on.
West Jefferson won the 2A District 6 title, in a championship match win over Firth, and the Panthers dropped a first-round matchup at state against Nampa Christian before winning two straight to wrap up fifth place.
The Panthers’ last trip to state came in 2018, when they went 1-1. In 2017, they went 0-2.
Firth returned to state this season looking to defend what had developed into a remarkable record at state.
This was the ninth straight trip to the 2A state tournament for the Cougars, who couldn’t repeat as champions and dropped two straight matches this year.
“It was kind of a rollercoaster for us this year,” head coach Elda Park said. “We had a lot of injuries. We had to go through a lot of adversity, a lot of challenges. The girls did well. They adjusted well, and they did the very best that they could.”
Firth advanced to the state tournament by winning a play-in game over New Plymouth, but that’s as far as the Cougars went.
To Park, wrapping up the season is kind of like balancing a see-saw. On one hand, the Cougars couldn’t defend their state title, but that’s a lofty expectation to meet. Maybe returning to state is accomplishment enough.
“We just kind of took it in stride,” Park said. “We didn’t win. We were two-and-out. But this whole season, we were just happy to make it to state and still be playing. With this whole COVID (issue), it kind of put a wrench into everybody’s plans.”
How to describe Mackay’s season? Well, start with COVID issues.
Early this season, the Miners saw head coach Kashia Hale, an assistant coach and three players all test positive for COVID-19, which triggered a two-week shutdown and threatened the team’s momentum.
Still, the Miners rallied, captured the District 6 1AD2 conference crown and advanced to state, where they won fifth place with a consolation match win over Deary.
“This has been a building process in the making,” Hale said. “Last year we came up short, ended up third place (at districts), and I had a lot of devastated kids, but I didn’t graduate anybody. So then COVID hit, and we were worried about what the season would be like.”
It didn’t turn out so bad for Mackay, which returned to state for the first time since 2014, when the Miners placed fourth.
To this day, Watersprings’ impressive state record stands. Including 2020, the Warriors have made six straight state tournament appearances, including championships in 2019 and 2017 and a third-place finish in 2018.
For Watersprings, this year didn’t end as memorably as those seasons.
Instead, the Warriors took fourth this year, advancing to the semifinals with a win over Deary before falling to Castleford and Horseshoe Bend.