Region 9 volleyball: In-depth look at every team as VB begins

File photo by Robert Hoppie,, St. George News

Region 9 volleyball has begun with preseason matches and tournaments underway and region play opening up next week. Canyon View has rejoined the region with the UHSAA realignment.

Below are the team capsules for each team:

2017 Canyon View Falcons

Coach: Monica Jensen
2016 Finish: 8-18, 4th seed in Region 12; Lost to state champion Morgan, then Stansbury in first two rounds of state tournament.
Key Returning Players: SR Brielle Fullmer (L, OH), SR Lorien Colbert (S, OH), JR Malia Vasi (S, OH), JR Eowyn Colbert (MB), JR Camry Higgins (RS), JR Jordan Nielson (OH, RS), JR Shelbi Nicoll (MB)

The Lady Falcons already have two games under their belts, both losses. Impressive play in summer tournaments, however, has turned other region coaches’ heads. Canyon View was picked fifth in the preseason poll. Adjusting to a new schedule against arguably tougher competition while learning a new system under first-year head coach Monica Jensen will be a tough road.

“We have a lot of experience returning,” said Jensen. “Fullmer leads the team with her scrappy defense. Vasi and Lori Colbert do equally well in their dual roles as setters and outsides. They communicate very well on the floor and are good on the attack.”

The Lady Falcons will next compete this weekend at the Dixie Fly High Tournament in St George.

2017 Cedar Lady Reds

Coach: Nicole Anglin
2016 Finish: 7-13, fifth in Region 9
Key Returning Players: SR Dream Weaver (OH), SR Shaun Bauman (L), SR Bailee Fielding (MB), SO Japrix Weaver (OH), SO Shaylee Evans (MB), SO Denim Henkel (S)

Cedar struggled last year with a very young team. The Lady Reds only lost three seniors, but one of them was setter Kylee Field, who was clearly the leader on the floor. Denim Henkel will step into the position, but look for preseason All-Region Japrix Weaver to take over the leadership role. Her sister is just as good on the outside, and may have an edge on her younger sibling in the defense department.

“Our strength this year will be our defense,” said Cedar head coach Nicole Anglin. “Dream Weaver and Bauman are great on defense. Japrix Weaver has developed into a very dangerous hitter.”

The Lady Reds will open their season by hosting Millard on Tuesday night.

2017 Desert Hills Thunder

Coach: Sharon Christensen
2016 Finish: 22-8, 1st seed in Region 9; Lost in state championship to Morgan
Key Returning Players: SR Saselah Goulding (S), SR Madison Clark (MB, OH), Elisa George (OH), JR Halle Sonju (MB, RS)

The Lady Thunder sailed through the state tournament without a glitch and seemed to be the favorite going into the final. But Morgan stepped up and played flawlessly to deny Desert Hills the title. Desert Hills clearly lost the most talent from last year as well. The twin tower co-players of the year, Charity Bradley and Rachel Winters, both graduated, along with four other starters/key players. With the luxury of loaded talent, however, several key reserves saw extended playing time, and earned enough respect from opposing coaches that three of them (Goulding, Clark and Sonju) made the preseason All Region Team.

The question coming in is how well the players adapt to new head coach Sharon Christensen’s system. Christensen brings a lengthy resume’ that includes four state championships. Despite the heavy losses, Desert Hills is picked to finish second in the region.

Desert Hills will host West on Thursday night.

2017 Dixie Flyers

Coach: Stacy Leavitt
2016 Finish: 14-9, 2nd seed in Region 9; Lost to Morgan, North Sanpete to end tournament finishing 9th
Key Returning Players: SR Tyler Stilson (OH), SR Brooklyn Wright (S), SR Ella Burrows (MB), SR Lauren Beatty (RS), SR Brynn Eardley (MB), SR Shawnee Jones (OH, MB), JR Cara Bair (L), JR Emme Leavitt (L)

Dixie returns the most talent from last year’s team and is a slight favorite over Desert Hills to win the region. The Lady Flyers were the only team to take a game from Morgan in the state tournament and almost forced a game five.

Region 9 Preseason Co-Player of the Year Tyler Stilson anchors the Flyer attack. But Coach Leavitt has several weapons on this team. Setter Brooklyn Wright was also preseason All-Region. And Lauren Beatty and Ella Burrows also received preseason votes.

“We have good experience and senior leadership this year,” said Coach Leavitt. “The only position with new players is at libero. Defensive specialists Cara Bair and Emme Leavitt will see time there and we could also go without a libero. Our passing has been good and Brooklyn Wright does outstanding setting up our attackers.”

Dixie will open the season by hosting the Dixie Fly High Tournament this weekend.

2017 Hurricane Tigers

Coach: Content Marshall
2016 Finish: 2-18 sixth in Region 9
Key Returning Players: SR Jeanette Cram (OH), SR Emily Swyers (L), JR Hailey Homer (S, RS), JR Alexis Martin (S, RS), JR McKena Carter (MB), JR London Gubler (OH, MB), JR Abbie Elison (OH)

Hurricane suffered through a tough season last year, only winning two games – And that was only being two years removed from winning a state championship. But the Lady Tigers were young. Many of their key players last year were sophomores. Most of them will move into starting and leadership positions. Hurricane was picked to finish sixth in the preseason coaches’ poll.

“Our receiving and passing last year was our downfall most games,” said Coach Marshall. “We have improved greatly in that area. Individually, McKena Carter and both of our setters had great summers. I think we will surprise some people this year.”

Hurricane will open the season on the road at Panguitch Wednesday night before competing in the Dixie Fly High Tournament this weekend.

2017 Pine View Panthers

Coach: Kelly Murdock
2016 Finish: 14-12, 3rd seed in Region 9; dropped first game at state tournament but rebounded to finish 8th
Key Returning Players: SR Amelia Goebel (MB), SR Saraven Allen (OH), SR Celeste Fiame (S), JR Emily Lantor (OH), SR Makona Santiago (L), Addisyn Mickkelson (MB), Teuila Leung Choi (RS)

Pine View did not lose much in the way of quantity last year, but in quality Cassidy Murdock and Cydnee McGuire were two outstanding players from a team known for its scrappy defense. The Panthers were upset in the first round of the state tournament, but came back to win two out of their next three.

This year, Pine View has already gotten its feet wet at the Skyline Tournament this past weekend. The Panthers finished 5-4 and won the the Silver Bracket. “We had a really good summer, “ Murdock said. “We are much further along than I thought we would be. We have good athleticism this year and that has compensated for our lack of experience in some areas.”

The Panthers joined Dixie and Desert Hills as the only teams to get preseason first-place votes. They are picked to finish third.

Pine View will play next on Tuesday night when they host Enterprise.

2017 Snow Canyon Warriors

Coach: Ryan Rarick
2016 Finish: 7-21, 4th seed in Region 9; Lost to Park City, Juab in first two rounds of the state tournament
Key Returning Players: SR Kasia Heath (DS), SR Savannah North (RS), JR Sammi Johnston (OH), JR Lizzy Rowland (OH), SO Hallie Remund (MB), SO Sophie Robinson (RS)

The Lady Warriors suffered through growing pains under first-year head coach Ryan Rarick last year. Devastating injuries toward the end of the year led to bittersweet results. While they suffered through a losing season, a few young players received valuable experience.

The team is led by Preseason Region 9 Co-Player of the Year Sammi Johnston. While Johnston is only a junior, she has two years of varsity experience, including the team that made it to the state finals two years ago.

Joining the returning players are two transfers. Senior Abby Tauanuu from Skyridge and sophomore Eliza Gibson from Murray will both play at the setter position. Freshman Jael Wilde will play at the libero spot.

“We have improved dramatically, both through development but also with the new players in talent,” said Coach Rarick. “Last year, we did not score unless we got the ball to Sammi. Other teams would key in on that and became increasingly more difficult as the year progressed. This year we have other viable options. We won a lot of our games with our service last year. We will still do well in that area this year.”

Snow Canyon will open the year by hosting Kanab on Tuesday night before competing in the Dixie Fly High Tournament this weekend.

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