State volleyball is about to kick into full swing, and there are several storylines to follow. Our area includes seven teams headed to state tournaments, from Thunder Ridge to Mackay, which means it’s time to break down teams, their opponents and how they figure to fare.

Here’s what you need to know.

5A

Thunder Ridge

The Titans head into this year’s state tournament looking to defend their title. Last season, Thunder Ridge won a state championship in just the school’s second year of existence, and now, it’s back for more.

Thunder Ridge (34-9) will play Timberline at 1 p.m. Friday at Skyline.

The Wolves (7-5) feature a Lehigh commit in Megan Schulte, one of the team’s key cogs. She pairs with players Morgan Lamb and Chayla Slavin to form Timberline’s attack.

The Titans, though, remain more focused on themselves. How can they win on Friday?

To the players, the answer involves staying energized.

“We’re definitely going to have to create our own energy on the court,” junior Kendel Hone said. “All of our teammates, the bench, is going to have to be a lot stronger this year. It’ll still be really fun. I’m excited.”

Madison

Madison has been through a lot this year. In September, the Bobcats lost sophomore Charity Wilson to a broken leg, the latest in a long line of injuries for Wilson. Earlier this month, the team lost her replacement, Maddi Wilcox, to a torn meniscus, ACL and MCL.

Still, the Bobcats have managed to collect a 29-9 record, and they came the closest last year to dethroning the Titans in the state tournament.

This year, Madison has leaned on Sidney Parker, who has compiled 44 aces, 455 kills, 88 blocks and 452 digs. Ditto for Kinley Kerbs, who has picked up 70 aces, 85 kills, 1153 assists and 316 digs.

Madison will face Skyview at 10:30 a.m. Friday at Skyline.

It’ll be the Bobcats’ chance to show that injuries haven’t slowed them down entirely.

4A

Shelley

Shelley has had something of an uneven year.

The Russets sport a 19-16 record, but they finished second at the 4A District 6 tournament, falling to champion Bonneville in the title match.

Shelley has enjoyed solid contributions from several players, including outside hitter Alexis Leckington who has produced 364 kills, outside hitter Caydence Taylor who has generated 296 kills and right side hitter Amber Higley who has pocketed 138 kills of her own.

Those players will try to help their team improve on their appearance at last year’s state tournament, where they dropped two straight matches.

Shelley will face Middleton at 3:30 p.m. Friday at Kimberly.

Bonneville

This year has been anything but typical for Bonneville, which has spent the season recovering nicely from the loss of a decorated class of seniors.

Since 2015, the Bees have won three state championships and recorded two runners-up finishes, establishing a level of success rarely replicated around the area.

The team’s only senior, Mariah Jardine, has spurred her team on both offense and defense, leading a collection of mostly green players to a 29-10 record headed into the state tournament.

Bonneville will face Twin Falls at 1 p.m. Friday at Kimberly.

3A

Sugar-Salem

Sugar-Salem is one of the hottest teams in the area, regardless of classification.

The Diggers will enter on a seven-match win streak, all sweeps, when they play Timberlake at 10:30 a.m. Friday at Twin Falls.

Head coach Cami Dodson said she has liked what she’s seen from several players.

“Katie Miller has brought a huge threat from the outside,” Dodson wrote in a text message, “as well as dynamic defense across the back row along with Mardee Fillmore, who adds a dominating block and attack in the middle. They both also add a lot of state experience and leadership. Skotlynd Barr is coming into her own as a first-year libero and gaining confidence while adding a defensive threat.”

That’s good news for Sugar-Salem, which is preparing to defend an impressive history at state.

The Diggers have either won a state title or finished second in each of the last five years, including championships in 2019, 2017 and 2016 and runners-up finishes in 2018 and 2015.

Sugar-Salem’s quest to build on that history starts Friday.

2A

Firth

Defending state champ Firth holds one of the longest state streaks in the area.

This will be the ninth straight trip to the 2A state tournament for the Cougars, who are slated to face Bear Lake at 3:30 p.m. Friday at Buhl.

Firth (14-15) hasn’t produced a flawless season to this point, but the Cougars did place second at the 2A District 6 tournament, falling in the championship match to West Jefferson, which is also competing at the 2A state tournament.

The Cougars have gotten a team-best 297 kills from Kiley Meechum, 105 kills from Brooklyn Clayson and another 89 kills from Daytona Folkman.

Setter Hailey Barker has provided the engine on offense, supplying 517 assists, while Liberty Park has generated a team-high 349 digs.

Those will be the key cogs who try to help Firth carry on what has already become a state tradition at their school.

West Jefferson

This year, West Jefferson will have the chance to build on what recently has become a forgettable history at state.

The Panthers’ last trip to state came in 2018, when they went 1-1. In 2017, they went 0-2.

West Jefferson will get an opportunity to right the ship on Friday, in a 1 p.m. matchup with Nampa Christian at Buhl.

1AD2

Watersprings

You’ll have to flip back quite a ways to find the last time Watersprings didn’t appear in the 1AD2 tournament.

The year was 2014, in fact, six years ago and long before any of the players on the 2020 roster were ready to join the team.

Since then, though, Watersprings has reeled off six straight state tournament appearances, including championships in 2019 and 2017 and a third-place finish in 2018.

Watersprings (17-5) moved on to this year’s state tournament by topping Leadore in the 1AD2 District 6 third-place game, advancing to play Deary at 8 a.m. Friday at Burley.

Mackay

The winner of that 1AD2 District 6 tournament, by the way, was Mackay.

The Miners’ reward is a spot in the 1AD2 state tournament, where they will meet Tri-Valley at 3:30 p.m. Friday at Burley.

Mackay, though, didn’t get there without struggle.

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.

Only that never happened. Mackay is back at state for the first time since 2014, when the Miners placed fourth.

Greg Woods is a sports reporter at the Post Register. Reach him 208-542-6772 and follow him on Twitter at GregWWoods.

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