In just a few years, Fremont volleyball went from a program struggling to establish itself to one of the state's powerhouses.

The shift happened so suddenly that head coach Tammy McKean was pleased but surprised when the Silver Wolves were voted No. 1 in a preseason poll of 5A coaches.

"I think that's great," she said. "I love the rankings, but I'd almost rather be a sleeper."

She was caught off guard by the vote because it was just a few years ago that Fremont was just another 'also ran' in volleyball.

"We were just battling to get to state," she said.

One of the reasons the Silver Wolves are on the map is senior Analaine Pelaez. The athletic outside hitter averaged 21 kills per match in the team's first tournament. Not only can she put the ball away, she is a force defensively, as well as one of the squad's best passers.

This year the offense will be run by her little sister, sophomore Melissa Pelaez, who is every bit as athletic as her older sister. Senior Alexa Monson, who played libero last year, will also set for Fremont, and junior outside hitter Bethany Wray and middle hitter Erika Nish give those setters plenty of options offensively.

The Silver Wolves dropped from the top spot after losing to Brighton, Cottonwood and Snow Canyon in the Rocky Mountain Classic, but McKean said the team learned a lot and planned to put that experience to good use.

Lone Peak, which played in the championship match for the fourth straight year and was the 2006 runner up in 5A, was voted No. 2. The Knights cruised through most of their opponents at the Rocky Mountain Classic, losing just two games in eight matches. They defeated Cottonwood for the championship in the Gold Division and proved they deserve their national ranking (88).

The Knights return most of last year's team including all-state setter Lacey Laycock, outside hitter Lacey Crammer, middle hitter Aubrey Muaina, senior outside hitter Cari Shumway, and senior middle/right side Faith Tusieseina. They're joined by senior middle hitter Hillary Olsen, junior middle hitter Ashton Gray and junior Heather Hannemann, as well as libero Kylie Heaps.

"We're deep," said head coach Deanna Meyer. "I've got kids sitting the bench that could be starting for other teams. "This is a great group. They work hard."

Pleasant Grove was ranked third in preseason polls, in large part because they return sophomore Danika Mendivil, who is a nationally ranked player in her age division. The outside hitter was injured in the first day of play at the Rocky Mountain Classic, which left the Vikings with a gaping hole to fill.

"We're a different team with her on the floor," said coach Mandi Nutall. The early word was that Mendivil's injury was a sprained knee and she is expected to return to the court in a couple of weeks.

In addition to Mendivil, the Vikings have middle hitter Sarah Clement, outside Brooke McAllister, setters Kemi McFarland and Tania Hale, as well as 6-5 right side hitter Jennifer Hamson.

"This team is amazing," Nutall said before the season. "This year for Pleasant Grove the sky is the limit."

Taylorsville was voted No. 4, while Northridge was voted No. 5.

Both teams had some holes to fill after big losses last season, but they each returned a solid core of athletic, experienced players. The Warriors have two impressive outside hitters in Brita Noble and Cyd Allen, who moved to the outside after playing middle last year.

Northridge also did some shuffling with outsides Andrea Marshall and Lauren McDavid returning, along with Alexis Furlong, right side, and Hali Hesley, libero.

"I think we'll be right there competing," said head coach Shauna Haney. "We have a lot of work to do, but we should be right there."

There is a lot of parity in 5A this season and Skyline, Alta, Bingham, Clearfield, Hunter, Viewmont and Davis could all be in the mix for top honors.


E-mail: adonaldson@desnews.com