A new prep volleyball season has begun, but some things seem a bit familiar.
All five of last year's state champions are favored to defend their respective titles, with Class 3A being the most competitive. One thing for sure is that this year's crop of seniors will be one of the state's best ever.Here is a brief look at each classification:
CLASS 5A: Two returning first-team all-state players make Skyline the heavy favorite to defend its state championship.
Seniors Holly Harris and Britt Whiting will lead the Eagle attack, while replacing graduated setter Hayley Bearnson will be key in Skyline's defense.
The Region 3 champion should come out of Utah County in rivals Mountain View and Orem. The Bruins lost a heart-breaking state championship match to Skyline last year and will miss Lisa Osguthorpe and Erin Hansen. Orem returns power hitter April Atuaia.
Bingham is hoping to claim more than just the Region 2 title this year. The Miners placed third in state last season and lost few key players to graduation.
Darkhorse teams for the classification include Alta (fifth last year) and Davis (seventh last year).
CLASS 4A: It would be safe to assume that this title is Highland's to lose (no pressure, right?). After all, the Rams have the best player in the state on their team in Logan Tom. The senior and reigning 4A MVP is being recruited by everybody in the free world.
Tom isn't the only strong outside hitter returning to Highland though, as Carrie Bowers gives the Rams a powerful 1-2 punch and makes them more than a one-player team.
Woods Cross, Bountiful and Cyprus will battle for the No. 2 spot from Region 5.
Bonneville is making an early case as the favorite in Region 4. The Lakers won last week's Bountiful Tournament over a strong field thanks to a stellar defensive performance. Last year's state runner-up Mtn. Crest also can't be overlooked.
Provo coach Wendy Bills is hoping the experience of a third-place finish in state last year will help the returning Bulldogs secure the Region 6 title.
CLASS 3A: This should be the most competitive classification, with at least seven schools having a legitimate shot to win it all.
Atop the list is defending state champion Morgan. The Trojans stunned Emery to win their third-straight title (the previous two coming in Class 2A) and return three starters. Morgan should enter this year's tournament as the Region 7 champion.
North Sanpete looks to reclaim the top spot in highly competitive Region 8, which had produced the last seven state champions before last season. First-team all-stater Rickie Rigby returns for the Hawks, along with four other experienced players.
Versatile Jackie Morrill and April Mecham pace Union, which should hold off Uintah and Wasatch for the Region 10 crown. Snow Canyon and Pine View are Region 9's top two teams.
CLASS 2A: For defending state champion San Juan, the best time to win another title is now because the cupboard is bare after this season. Loaded with senior talent, Broncos head coach Tracy Halliday characterized her team as "strong" with "three returning starters and six experienced seniors backing them up."
Among the returning starters is last year's 2A MVP Nathele Kalauli. The senior averaged six kills and four blocks last year from the setter position. Also returning are juniors Tyrel Lacy and Marci Bowring.
Duchesne looks to be the best at giving San Juan a challenge for the Region 13 title with senior Shanna Mullins leading the way.
Spurred on by its third-place finish in state last season, Rowland Hall is the favorite to claim the Region 12 title. The Winged Lions return four senior starters.
South Sevier is expected to win the Region 11 title but the Rams suffered an upset loss to North Sevier in their region opener on Tuesday.
CLASS 1A: The Rich (Rebels, that is) will try to keep on getting richer this season, aiming for a seventh-straight title and eighth overall. This might be the toughest year for Rich to defend, however, as the Rebels lost five starters to graduation and have no seniors on the team.
"We will play an extremely hard schedule which will benefit us by providing us great competition," Rich head coach Cindy Stuart said.
Junior Penny Weston is the lone returning starter for Rich, but Stuart is expecting plenty from junior Lindsay Wilson and sophomore Danelle Peart.
Teams hoping to knock the Rebels from their lofty perch include Valley, Wayne, Int. Christian and Panguitch.
Valley, Wayne and Panguitch will stage a strong battle for the Region 15 crown, while ICS is the favorite in Region 14.