Full schedules & scores
All-state player Malina Ama, background, of Mt. Spokane watches the ball on Sept. 18, 2018, at Ferris High School. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)

Prep volleyball preview: Mt. Spokane returns deep squad off state title team

It is often said that it takes a little luck to win a title. While there is certainly some truth in that statement, it takes talent, too.

The Mt. Spokane volleyball team, led by senior outside hitter Malina Ama, is loaded with the latter and, after an injury-riddled preseason, hoping for the former.

“Our No. 1 goal is to get everyone healthy, because we’ve had a lot injuries,” Ama said of the defending Greater Spokane League and State 3A champions. “But, otherwise, our goals are to win the GSL and get back to the state tournament.”

The Wildcats, even after Tia Allen returned from injury on Wednesday, had three players sidelined when league play opened Thursday. Fortunately for coach Dave Whitehead, Mt. Spokane has a roster loaded with talent.

“We are very blessed,” he said.

Ama was named the state 3A player of the year in 2018, but that is just the tip of the iceberg.

“I don’t think Malina has to carry us at all,” Whitehead said. “We have so many good players that it doesn’t fall on her shoulders, but we can go to her when we need her. Malina could be our MVP this year, but it could be three other girls, too.”

Allen, a junior outside hitter, and her sister Teila, a sophomore setter, were both named second-team all-state last year. According to Whitehead, senior middle blocker Abby Newcomb “has been the best leader I’ve had in a long, long time,” and junior libero Taylor Miche is “the best libero in the city – all 4-foot-10 of her.”

Beyond that, Mt. Spokane added seniors Sophia Bertotti-Metoyer, Jayda Noble and freshman Leilani Ama (Malina’s sister).

Bertotti-Metoyer, a 6-1 transfer from Gonzaga Prep, was a second-team All-GSL pick last year. Noble – who is playing volleyball for the first time since eighth grade – is a 6-footer who is one of the top basketball prospects on the West Coast. She committed last year to play hoops at University of Washington.

“The game is a little fast for her right now, but she is picking it up,” Whitehead said. “Jayda won’t play much for us right now, but she is being a leader on the bench, which is a different role for her.”

Such a wealth of talent can lead to issues on the court and in the locker room if egos aren’t checked at the door.

The Wildcats, at least so far, have avoided any distractions.

“We’ve played really well together and flowed kind of seamlessly from last season,” Malina Ama said. “We try to stay humble and focus on what we know how to do.

“Team chemistry and working together are a huge focus for us. If one of us is having an off night, someone can come off the bench and fill that role. Our chemistry has been really good.”

That will have to continue to be the case.

Mt. Spokane has a tremendous blend of experience, youth, size and athleticism. But with that comes expectations – internal and external – not to mention the tough road ahead in league play and beyond.

Mead, Gonzaga Prep and University all have the look of potential state qualifiers.

“First of all, we need to get healthy,” Whitehead said. “But our goal is always to make it to state and we’ll see how it goes from there. It always comes down to who is healthy and who is playing well at the end of the year.”

Greater Spokane League

Central Valley (3-6 league; seventh place in GSL) returns three starters and will be led by senior setter Olivia Minnick, the 2018 team MVP. “Our strengths are our work ethic and focus,” coach Jason Allen said. “We are young; to be competitive, we need to be more consistent, commit fewer errors and hitters need to put away the ball consistently.” … Ferris (4-5; sixth) coach Amy DeAndre has seven letter winners and four starters back, including seniors Olivia Schwartz (OH/MB, second-team All-GSL) and Aiyana Henderson (OH). DeAndre said her players have “great attitudes” but the team’s weakness is its “serve receive.” … Senior M/OH Hannah Wood, a first-team all-league selection last year, leads three returning starters to coach Jill Benson’s Gonzaga Prep (7-2; tied for second) squad. “We should challenge for one of the top spots in the league,” Benson said. “With a healthy mix of returners and newcomers, we should progress throughout the season.”… Lewis and Clark (5-4; fifth) returns four letter winners, all of who started at some point last season for coach Chris Kosty. “We’ll be a solid team with some depth and youth,” Kosty said. “I think we may surprise some teams, but we’ll have to excel at executing plays.” … Mead (7-2; tied for second) took a small step back last season after winning a league title and placing second at state in 2017. Coach Shawn Wilson’s team returns nine letter winners and five starters, including seniors Allie Flynn (S, first-team All-GSL), Nicole Bantilan (OH, first-team All-GSL) and Kendal Buries (M, second-team All-GSL) “Our strength is that we have talented players at all positions with experience to back it up,” Wilson said. “All the pieces are there to make a great team.” … Senior setter Lilli Carruthers leads a North Central (2-7; eighth) squad that returns seven letter winners for for coach Whitney Abel. … Rogers (0-9; 10th) returns seven starters and is led by senior setter Lidiya Pankova – who finished seventh at state in 110-meter hurdles. “Our team has incredibly tight chemistry both on and off the court,” coach Elaina Rankin said. “Our senior libero (Alivia Plenty) will be solid in the back row, leading our defense and serve receive.” … Coach Brooke Meyer returns for her 20th season at the helm at Shadle Park (1-8; ninth), which has nine players back from last year’s squad. … University (7-2; tied for second in GSL) returns six letter winners and three starters from a state-qualifying team. Seniors Lauren Fleury (OH, first-team All-GSL), Kristah Tiffany (OH, second-team all-league) and Joli Poplawski (S, second team) will lead the way for coach Tony Collins.

Great Northern League

Coach Heather Zorrozua returns seven starters to her Cheney (4-8 GNL; fourth place) squad, including senior Shelby Draper (MB, first-team all-league) and junior Avery Stark (OH, second-team all-league). … Clarkston (7-5; third) coach Adam Van Vogt will have to replace the production of graduates OH Eva Millan, the 2018 GNL MVP, and first-team all-league MH Keely Burnes, but returns seven letter winners and four starters. … East Valley (8-4; second in GNL) returns six letter winners and two starters from last year’s squad that finished third at regionals. Chad Coupland’s team will be led by senior S Megan Lange (S, second-team all-league). … Pullman (11-1) will be led by a pair of first-team all-league picks – junior OH Mikayala Uhlenkott and senior OH Maddy Oelke. … First-year coach Mark Weis will try to lay a foundation at West Valley (0-12). The Eagles opened the season with back-to-back wins, snapping a 23-match losing streak.

Northeast A

Colville brings back four starters. The Indians are led by a pair of second-team all-league picks in Brooke Stutzer (MB) and Molly Schauls (OH). … Coach Jack Woods’ Deer Park squad returns five starters, including second-team all-league OH Morgan Erickson … Defending champ Freeman returns three starters and eight letter winners from a squad that finished sixth in state last season. Senior Hali Putz (S), junior Jordyn Goldsmith (OH) and sophomore Ashley Boswell (MB) will lead coach Eva Windlin-Jansen’s team… Lakeside, which tied with Freeman atop the league standings last season and finished eighth in state, will be led by senior MB Glory Olson, an all-league pick. … Newport returns seven players with starting experience, including Cora Pelleberg, an all-league selection. … Medical Lake returns eight letter winners but just two starters from last year’s squad. The Cardinals will be led by senior Tori John (OH/MB) and junior Lissandra Hartwell (OH/MB).

Northeast 2B

Northwest Christian will be led by sophomore S/RS Madi Zorn, a first-team all-state selection. Coach Kim Zorn’s team lost five starters to graduation but also returns sophomore OH Skyla Tunison (second-team all-state) and junior OH Chiara Carey (first-team all-league). … St. George’s will look to improve on a winless campaign in 2018 and will be led by seniors Maria Madero and Mary Bade.

Idaho

Coeur d’Alene returns five starters, including seniors Elizabeth Schrader, Taylin Rowley and Liliana Hare. … Lake City placed third in state but lost three all-state players to college programs. All-league OH Janae Rayborn returns. … Lakeland returns five starters with four juniors in the ranks, led by OH Daphne Carroll and RS Katy Ryan. … Timberlake lost three all-league players to graduation but returns All-IML junior OH Brooke Jessen. … Priest River returns a pair of two-year all-league players for their senior seasons: S Harlee Meek and L Maggee Pancake. … St. Maries lost four starters but returns a crop of five juniors with varsity experience, including OH Mackenzie Hammond and MB Kirsten Miller.