OREM — When it comes to state volleyball playoffs, even the most heavily favored teams understand anything can happen in the two-day tournament.
“I think some of our strengths are the same as the to teams,” said top-ranked Box Elder head coach Kristine Harding. “So it’s going to come down to who shows up mentally and emotionally. I think in 5A this year we have a good, even field.”
No. 1-ranked Box Elder, second-ranked Skyridge and third-ranked Corner Canyon all won their region titles without a loss.
The Bees' strength has been their veteran leadership. Five of the team’s eight possible starters have extensive experience. From last year’s championship team that knocked off two-time defending champion Bountiful in five sets, five seniors return, four of whom start.
The Bees will rely on the leadership of setter Annie Mecham, middle hitter Jaida Burt, outside Emily Isaacson, and libero Morgan Reeder. Senior Sarah Reeder, whose versatility allows Harding to use her at just about any position but most consistently outside and middle, rounds out the team’s veteran leaders.
The Bees square off against Wasatch in the opening round of the tournament that begins Thursday at UVU’s UCCU Center at 3:30 p.m.
Skyridge opens the tournament with Farmington High, and like Box Elder, the Falcons have both talent and experience. They’re led by libero Tylee Fuller, and outside hitter Kenadee Christensen, as well as setter Kaitlyn Standifird.
Corner Canyon will take on East in the first round, and they’re led by Meghann Brannelly, Mikayla Kimball and Madison Brunatti.
Fourth-ranked West won the Region 6 title with just one loss. The Panthers open the tournament with Brighton and are led by captains Heleine Filipe and Dana Manu.
Fifth-ranked Bountiful faces Springville in the first round of the tournament.
Top-ranked Lone Peak knows that defending a title can be tougher than winning it.
After all, they’ve won two straight titles and are looking to make it three in a row.
“We have a target on our backs, we know that,” said Lone Peak head coach Reed Carlson. “We know we’re going to get everyone’s best volleyball. I’m looking forward to it.”
For the Knights, it isn’t a matter if they have the talent to compete for a title. They’ve proven that year after year, and this year with an undefeated region title.
“For us, it will be ‘Can we keep our heads on straight and focus and bring the right intensity throughout the entire tournament,” Carlson said. “There are about five or six teams that have a chance to make this year’s state tournament a lot of fun.”
The Knights have the benefit of one of the top hitters in any classification in senior outside Tasia Farmer. Farmer, along with middle blocker Kennedi Boyd and libero Hikialani Kaohelaulii, provides the kind of leadership that helps a team find consistency under pressure.
They face West Jordan in the first round of the playoffs, which begin for 6A at 9 a.m. (although their game is at 10:30 a.m.).
Second-ranked Bingham and third-ranked Syracuse could meet in the tournament’s second round. The Titans open with Cyprus, while Bingham has a tough first-round draw in Herriman.
Fourth-ranked Pleasant Grove faces Riverton in a 9 a.m. first-round match, while fifth-ranked Copper Hills’ opponent is still to be determined.
All four of the region champions, Syracuse, Granger, Copper Hills and Lone Peak, won their league titles without a loss.
Granger, led by captains Rebecca Moleni and Julia Taula, opens the tournament against fourth-seeded Weber.