ST. GEORGE – The past two years saw Region 9 volleyball dominate in the playoffs. But that only got the local teams so far. Snow Canyon and Desert Hills both reached the championship, only to lose to perennial powerhouse Morgan.
This year’s UHSAA classification realignment is a mixed blessing for Region 9. Even though the teams move up in classification and compete against larger schools in 4A, they leave Morgan behind in 3A.
And even though Region 9 will play schools with larger enrollments, all of the Region 9 coaches agree there are no teams out there like Morgan.
“The team that I believe will be competitive with Region 9 at state is Park City,” said Dixie head coach Stacy Leavitt. “And they were 3A last year. They moved up with us.”
Pine View’s Kelly Murdock also mentioned a second contender from up north.
“Ridgeline has been playing well in the summer tournaments,” she said. “But there are three, maybe four teams in our region that will do well in the state tournament.”
Also, unlike the last two years where Snow Canyon and Desert Hills were clear preseason favorites, this year there was less distance in the voting totals determining the predicted order of finish in Region 9. Three teams received first-place votes.
Dixie led the way with 46 points and four first-place votes. The Flyers lost talented seniors Risha Tiatia and Deaubrey Bowers to graduation, but return attack leaders Tyler Stilson and Lauren Beatty on the outside, Ella Burrows in the middle and Brooklyn Wright at setter.
Just behind them is reigning Region 9 champion Desert Hills with 42 points and two first-place votes. The Thunder arguably lost the most by graduating twin towers Rachel Winters and Charity Bradley, along with three other starters. But new head coach Sharon Christensen did not inherit an empty cupboard. Setter Saselah Goulding, middle Madi Clark and right side hitter Halle Sonju all saw extensive playing action last year. Pine View received the final first place vote and came in at number three with 32 points. The Panthers lost their team leaders, setter Cassidy Murdock and attacker Cydnee McGuire. Returning in the middle are Amelia Goebel and Emily Lantor.
The Panthers were followed by Snow Canyon with 26 votes. Coach Ryan Rarick brings back a squad more seasoned after going through some growing pains last year. Canyon View sits at fifth with 19 points. The Falcons are rejoining Region 9 after being away for two years. They will also have a new coach, Monica Jensen. Hurricane was just behind the Falcons with 18 points. Much like Snow Canyon last year, the Tigers were very young and bring back a team with more experience this year. Cedar took the final spot with 13 points. The Lady Reds had some key moments last year, including a season-ending win over Pine View.
The Region 9 volleyball preseason team was also selected by the region coaches. Coaches were not allowed to pick players from their own teams.
Snow Canyon’s Sammi Johnston and Dixie’s Tyler Stilson share honors as preseason Player of the Year, appearing on five ballots each. Joining them on the first team are Halle Sonju, Madi Clark and Saselah Goulding from Desert Hills, Brooklyn Wright from Dixie, Japrix Weaver from Cedar and Brielle Fullmer from Canyon View.
Also receiving votes were Hailey Homer and London Gubler from Hurricane, Dream Weaver from Cedar, Elisa George and Kylee Christensen from Desert Hills, Loren Beatty and Ella Burrows from Dixie, Hallie Remund from Snow Canyon and Emily Lantor from Pine View.
REGION 9 VOLLEYBALL PRESEASON POLL
1. Dixie 46 (4)
2. Desert Hills 42 (2)
3. Pine View 32 (1)
4. Snow Canyon 26
5. Canyon View 19
6. Hurricane 18
7. Cedar 13
REGION 9 VOLLEYBALL PRESEASON TEAM
Co-POY: Sammi Johnston, Snow Canyon
Co-POY: Tyler Stilson, Dixie
Halle Sonju, Desert Hills
Madi Clark, Desert Hills
Saselah Goulding, Desert Hills
Japrix Weaver, Cedar
Brooklyn Wright, Dixie
Amelia Goebel, Pine View
Brielle Fullmer, Canyon View
Others receiving votes: Hailey Homer and London Gubler, Hurricane; Elisa George and Kylee Christensen, Desert Hills; Hallie Remund, Snow Canyon; Dream Weaver, Cedar; Loren Beatty, Dixie; Emily Lantor, Pine View.
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