The Highland rams were voted No. 1 in preseason polls because they easily won the 2005 4A championship and they lost only a couple of players to graduation.
What no one foresaw was that the team would lose two more starters to academic ineligibility.
The Rams struggled after losing those key players, including sophomore Jasmine White, who promised to be one of the state's hottest outside hitters. White suffered tremendous personal tragedy last spring when her step-father was killed and it affected her performance in school.
To her credit, she worked hard to bring her grades up while coming to games to support her teammates. She was eligible just before the state tournament, but the Rams couldn't overcome their fourth seed and lost in the first round to Lehi, a team that eventually finished third.
Highland loses three players to graduation, which will test them again. Senior setter Susan Harris and middle hitter Shauntelle Krogh, along with libero Cassadee Dunn, will all be missed next season.
But the team also returns a core of athletic and versatile players that will make Highland a contender once again. The Rams will return White and junior middle/outside hitter Brittny Lolohea who had a great season. They also return Losaline Fakaosi, junior middle hitter, Emeline Tuakalau, junior outside hitter, Trisha Haslam, a junior outside hitter and sophomore Heidi Niederhauser, a sophomore middle hitter.
The team has all the ingredients to make another run at a 4A title, but the Rams will have their work cut out for them as the defending 2006 champion Colts also return most of their starters.
Cottonwood returns junior outside hitter Melissa Fifita, junior middle blocker Kaili Aiono, sophomore middle blocker Rachael Atland, junior setter Caitlin Lavu and freshman outside hitter/setter Emily Atkinson.
Cottonwood loses senior setter Kylie Hudson, senior libero Trustine (Tini) Mendoza and senior outside hitter Diana Franca from the starting line-up. Kalee Eldredge and Dezi Doppel came off the bench to help the Colts and will also graduate this spring.
The Colts return junior outside hitter Melissa Fifita, junior middle blocker Kaili Aiono, sophomore middle blocker Rachael Atland, junior setter Caitlin Lavu and freshman outside hitter/setter Emily Atkinson.
Murray finished second in region and in the state tournament and returns a lot of talented athletes. The Spartans do, however, lose five valuable seniors, including two who provided big blocks and emotional fire in middles Brittany Parker and Sadie Maughn. Setter Kristen Lemmert and hitters Cherise Bona and Audris Allen will also graduate this spring.
The Spartans return some promising players including freshman outside hitter Prisella Matemate who was out part of the season with a broken foot.
Granger loses its team leader, both emotionally and statistically, in middle blocker Casey Speredon who will play for BYU next fall. They also lose senior outside hitter Liz Saena who also provided key leadership and offense for the Lancers who finished third in region 6 this season. Also graduating are middle/outside hitter Siupolu Mulitalo and defensive specialists Ralyn Charley and Hollie Heaton.
The Lancers return several players who contributed to this season's success including Tracy Leota, setter and outside hitter, and freshman Mahina Fa'amoe who should also have an impact next year.
West earned Region 6's fifth seed but lost against Box Elder and then Highland to exit the first day. With talented athletes like Fesi Vaisigano, the Panthers will be looking to go farther next season. East earned the sixth seed and had the same experience with a loss to Provo and then to Granger in tournament play. East loses outside hitter Susan Widdison and Rebecca Fetzer but returns junior Latoya Utuone among several promising players.
Cyprus and Olympus didn't make the tournament, but both have some solid athletes and should make the region 6 race interesting next year.