Year after year the story always ended the same way for Skyview volleyball coach Kevin Murphy.
For the better part of 13 years, he and the rest of the Skyview volleyball team fell painstakingly short of capturing the first state championship in program history.
But not this year.
Following years of heartbreak with more than a few shed tears, the Skyview volleyball team finally obtained the one thing missing from its prolific program: A state title.
For this achievement, the Skyview volleyball team is the 2016-2017 Idaho Press-Tribune’s Sports Stars Girls Fall Team of the Year.
“It’s hard to explain. I know people talk about surreal and it truly was,” Murphy said. “I didn’t know if it was ever going to happen for us. We got so close so many times. So when it finally happened, I couldn’t believe it. It was so long overdue because I felt like we could’ve won a few others.”
The Hawks (41-3) came into the state tournament the same way they had the last six years, as district champions. But even six straight 4A District III titles and 11 of the past 13 district championships wasn’t going to fill the void left by continually coming up short on the biggest of stages.
Since 2000, Skyview had placed third five times and runner-up an additional four, including a five set gut-wrenching loss to Century last season. All of which was on the mind as the Hawks entered this season’s state tournament.
“For a lot of the returners, that was a really big motivator,” junior Dani Nay said. “Everyone who experienced last season's state championship loss remembered just how much it hurt like it was yesterday. That kind of feeling of loss was something we didn’t want to repeat. We were all ready to finally bring home a championship.”
Skyview won its first three matches, including a victory over the six-time reigning state champion Century, which had beaten the Hawks every year on its way to the state title. The 3-0 start set the stage for a championship showdown against the two-time defending 5A state champion Idaho Falls, which dropped down to 4A this season and lost to Skyview in straight sets earlier in the day.
However, unlike the first encounter, the Hawks had a tougher time around in the finals. After taking the first set 25-22, they dropped the next two sets to the Tigers, who moved within one set win of forcing a winner take all game.
But the Hawks quickly stopped the bleeding. They won the next two sets with junior Olivia Bradley delivering the game-winning kill. Her light tap kill over the net landed just out of the outreached arm of an Idaho Falls player, and with it, the Hawks, who had seen championship after championship slip from them for well over a decade, finally got over the hump.
“I had been swinging and swinging and I saw the libero was all the way back so I knew this was the moment I had been waiting for,” Bradley said. “When I saw it go down I just lost it. Everything we had worked for had finally paid off. All the years of coming up short were finally over. It was just a rush of all sorts of emotions. It was amazing and I’ll never forget it and this team.”