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State titles up for grabs

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Troy Norris got a glimpse of what he faces at this year's state tournament, and Goliath doesn't look unbeatable.

"I feel that at least we'll be able to compete with them," the Panguitch coach said after watching 1A defending state champion Rich High take on 5A's Cottonwood. "They're definitely still the No. 1 team, but I think we've got a shot. I like to think we can match their strengths."

Both teams have some talented outside hitters. Panguitch will rely on the talent of Halie Sawyer, who was an all-state player last year and has improved so much this year that larger schools are singing her praises. Norris said they've used Sawyer wherever they've been weak during region play, but will likely let her hit outside in the tournament.

The Bobcats have never played for the state championship in volleyball, despite having strong teams for the past five years. This year, if they win their first three games, they could face Rich in the finals.

That scenario means the Rebels have to win, too, and there are quite a few other teams with hopes of ending Rich's strangle-hold on the 1A title. The Rebels have won the last four, and 11 of the last 12. They boast a solid lineup again with Stephanie Floyd, Amanda Peart and Brianna Weston, all solid hitters.

Rich coach Cindy Stuart isn't looking past anybody, but is interested in seeing Panguitch play.

"I've heard they're very much improved," she said. "Halie was good last year, so this should be interesting."

Whitehorse had an undefeated region season that ended in a No. 2 seed after Rich swept the Raiders in the Region 16 tournament. The Raiders could pull off some upsets, and have the advantage of anonymity. St. Joseph and Waterford also have title hopes, and both teams have solid middle hitters and strong blocking squads.

Panguitch could meet Waterford in the second round, assuming both teams win their first round games.

CLASS 2A: The state's second-smallest classification is always interesting at tournament time.

This year will be no exception as there are still the usual favorites mixed in with some new challengers.

Richfield and San Juan have beaten each other with the Broncos earning the most recent win at home.

"I've never won there," said Wildcat coach Brett Beagley. "It's just so tough to drive all the way there and then play on their home court. I don't know if it's the drive, or what."

Richfield boasts one of the state's best in Brittani Willardson, while San Juan has its usual great defensive team with two powerful offensive weapons in Shalie Flannery and Kendra Lyman. Setter Cheyna Shumway also makes them a formidable foe for any size school.

Richfield, the No. 2 seed, starts with Juab, while San Juan, the region's No. 1 seed, faces Kanab in the first round. Kanab upset Monticello last week to make pre-tournament talk a little more interesting.

A team hoping to make some noise is Region 14's No. 1 seed, Juan Diego. They start with Millard, and face the winner of the Parowan-South Sevier game, which promises to be one of the best of the first round.

Beaver, Region 13's No. 1 seed, starts with Manti, while South Summit faces North Sevier, in what should be a great match-up. Enterprise, Region 14's No. 4 seed, faces North Summit, Region 14's No. 3 seed, in another promising contest.

CLASS 3A: Like the 1A tournament, there is one team that all others hope to be able to topple — Morgan.

North Sanpete is actually the defending 3A champion, but it's Morgan who wear the target. The Trojans went undefeated in region play, as did Carbon, the runner-up in the state tournament the last three years.

The Dinos are hoping to break their second-best streak with a title this year. They pin their hopes to the lightening fast arm of Morgan Warburton. Carbon opens the tournament against Hurricane, and if they can win, they will take on the winner of the Bear River-Park City match.

The Uintah-Ogden match promises to be exciting, with the Tigers getting a lot of practice against tough opponents in region play. Region 9's No. 1 seed is Pine View, and it starts the tournament with Region 8's Emery.

Morgan opens against Judge, a No. 4 seed, while fifth-ranked Wasatch, a No. 1 seed from Region 10, will square off against Grantsville, a fourth seed. Defending state champion North Sanpete, a No. 2 seed, will play Dixie, while Snow Canyon and Delta open against each other.

All of the games will be played at UVSC, with the 1A title game played at 7 p.m. on Friday. The 2A championship will be at 7 p.m. Saturday and the 3A title game is scheduled for 5:30 Saturday night.

E-mail: adonaldson@desnews.com