Skyview is what other volleyball programs have been judged by.

The Hawks have won two state titles in three years, played in four consecutive state finals and their 114-12 (.905) record is the best in Idaho over the last three years.

But the dynasty may be in jeopardy this season.

That’s because graduation, along with some unexpected departures, hit them hard. Skyview lost libero Morgan Bower, an All-American, a first-team All-5A Southern Idaho Conference selection and the Idaho Press’ Player of the Year last season, to graduation. Younger sisters Whitney and Eden will also not play this year. Whitney, the SIC Player of the Year at setter last season, forewent her senior year to join Morgan a year early at BYU, while Eden, an All-SIC selection, will miss the year due to injury.

However, the Hawks still have All-SIC returners in senior setter Karen Murphy, a Dartmouth College commit, and senior outside hitter Molly Anderson.

The uncertainty surrounding Skyview has several other SIC teams smelling blood in the water. Timberline, which has won three out of the last five District III championships, may be the new favorite. It’s hard not to like the Wolves. They have three All-SIC players back, including junior outside hitter Megan Schulte, who is committed to Lehigh, a Division I school in Pennsylvania. Junior setter Morgan Lamb is one to keep your eye on as well.

Eagle, Rocky Mountain and Centennial will also be in the thick of things.

The Mustangs have the most state championships out of any 5A SIC program since 1981 with five. They missed state last season, but bring back four players, including senior outside hitter Maddy Baldwin, who earned All-SIC second-team honors a year ago.

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The Grizzlies are the last 5A SIC team to win a state title (2010), and haven’t missed a state tournament since the school opened in 2008. It’s the longest active streak in the league. They have a good chance of extending that with junior outside hitter Ella Ebright, an all-conference player last year, back.

The Patriots also failed to qualify for the playoffs, but could be the dark horses this year. It helps having both a first-team all-league player and a Division I commit on the same team. Junior setter Miya Koch is the first-team player, while senior middle blocker Isabell Ipsen is orally committed to Idaho State.

Middleton took full advantage of Skyview’s exit from the 4A ranks with its most successful season in eight years in 2018. It claimed both the 4A SIC and District III titles, along with a third-place finish at state. But this is a different Vikings’ team than a year ago. They have a new coach in Taci Morris, who was an assistant with Middleton for six years. She replaces Kamille Crawford, who went 82-23 in three years. The Vikings also only have two players with any real varsity experience back. But those two are All-SIC returners, senior middle blocker Macy Short and junior outside hitter Carissa Chainey.

Kuna, which returned to state after a two-year hiatus last season, may be the team to beat. Kuna brings back its entire starting lineup with half being all All-SIC players. The group includes junior outside hitter Courtney Weatherby, who was a first-team honoree last season.

Bishop Kelly should be taken seriously as well. While the Knights missed out on the dance last year, they bring back five starters, including a pair of All-SIC players in senior middle blocker Cece Fitz, who is committed to Division I La Salle in Philadelphia, and senior setter Analise Hitchcock.

For the small schools, it begins and ends with Nampa Christian. There is an argument to be made that the Trojans are the best program in the state right now period. They have won 61 of their last 62 2A Western Idaho Conference games and the last eight District III championships. Their nine state titles are the most in the 2A classification since 1981. And, oh yeah, Nampa Christian hasn’t missed a state tournament in 21 years.

There’s a pretty good chance it adds to that haul with five All-WIC players returning, including first-teamers, senior outside hitter Ella de Jong and senior middle blocker Kennedy Lacy.

Check back next week when I close my fall sports previews with swimming.

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