There was a time when Lewiston volleyball was the laughingstock of the Inland Empire League, if not the state.
Lewiston gained credibility last year, capturing the Idaho State 5A championship with a team comprised of five juniors and seven sophomores. The Bengals had no seniors.
No wonder Lewiston is heavily favored to win the league title and challenge for a second straight state championship.
“Lewiston lost nobody. I would expect them to win the state championship again,” Post Falls coach Willow Hanna said.
At least two other IEL teams, though, hope to join Lewiston at state. The top two teams advance.
Lake City and Coeur d’Alene figure to challenge Lewiston. Post Falls doesn’t have the firepower it has had in recent years.
Lake City returns five starters. The Timberwolves will have a significant size advantage in the middle with seniors Madi Farrell and Haile Watson, both of whom are 6-foot-2 and athletic.
“We have a good solid core of 10 players,” LC coach Brett Taylor said. “What I’m seeing is they’re pretty versatile.”
Taylor also likes the fact that the Timberwolves are a year older. They were expected to challenge Lewiston last year but faded in the second half of the season.
“We have better maturity and that goes with having five seniors,” Taylor said. “The only thing that will really stop us is us. We have to make sure that mentally we’re all on the same page and that we’re all going for the same goal.”
Taylor isn’t looking past anybody.
“Lewiston returns its whole team, Coeur d’Alene is big, strong and athletic, and Post Falls will be a great defensive team,” Taylor said. “We could probably take any of the teams in the league and do pretty well in state.”
Lewiston coach Kelly Harwick said nine returners will be heavily used.
“With the offense we run, they’re part of the playing rotation,” Harwick said.
Harwick understands expectations will be high this fall.
“After having been essentially the underdog last year – and that no one except us really expected us to win a state championship – we realize we are in an entirely different position this year,” Harwick said. “We understand the pressure we are under and we understand that every time we step on the court we will be getting every other team’s best game.”
Fielding perhaps the tallest team will be Coeur d’Alene. The Vikings have nine players who are 5-10 or taller and four that are over 6-0.
“The key is going to be the girls learning to play well together,” CdA coach Dee Pottenger said. “Our focus is defense and ball control.”
CdA returns four starters. They are seniors Sydney Williams (middle blocker), Miranda Miller (outside hitter) and Morgan Leifer (mb) and sophomore Megan Ramseyer (setter).
Post Falls’ experience is found in three returning starters – seniors Brenna Meehan (s/rightside) and Amy Booth (libero) and junior Shayna Allert (oh).
“It’s going to be about getting varsity experience,” Hanna said.
“We’ve got to play our strategies to our strengths. Ball control and defense are critical.”