The one thing volleyball fans can count on in this year's 4A race is unpredictability.

There will be no dominating squad. In fact, most coaches don't believe many squads will even be able to put together an undefeated season — even in region play alone. In a pre-season poll, coaches voted last year's runner-up, Dixie, the favorite for this year's title.

The Flyers started out this season by winning the tournament they hosted two weeks ago. They're led by outside hitter Sheila Uluave and have lived up to their top billing thus far. They will face a serious test when they play at the Lone Peak Tournament on Sept. 12.

Murray was picked to be No. 2 and that would have been right where coach Wendy Pehrson expected the Spartans to be until they lost all-state outside hitter Pracella Matemate, who is moving to California.

"We are not as good as people think we are," she said. "But if we can gel and have a good tournament, we'll see. Hopefully we'll be in the mix."

She said the players took losing Matemate hard but hopes they will bounce back and come together as a team.

"We'll see how we develop and how we come along," said Pehrson. "We look like a gymnastics team, like we always do."

The coach is referring to the team's small but muscular stature, but what may help the squad is its athleticism. Senior outside hitter Mel White has the potential to be one of the top hitters in the state, and she will share the court with a very experienced setter in senior Sarah Ramos.

"She's been starting since she was a freshman, so that helps," the coach said. "If we can get some strong net play, we'll get it going."

The Spartans will be relying on seniors Melanie Coates and Janessa Milne in the middle, but Pehrson said much of what her team is capable of is still a mystery to her.

"This is the least I've known about a team in years," she said.

Cottonwood had a player transfer to Skyline and another opt not to play high school volleyball, so while the Colts are young, they're talented and have a solid tradition. The Colts rely on junior setter Emily Atkinson, sophomore middle Alexis Aalona, sophomore outside Alydia Fields and sophomore outside Mckenna Tait.

Sky View returns one of the state's most promising hitters in Josselyn White, who earned 330 kills and 59 blocks last season. The Bobcats also return setter Kylee Webb, who finished the 2007 season with 698 assists, as well as, Dani Egbert, the team's libero who picked up 325 digs last fall.

"We have a lot of seniors and some talented juniors," said coach Shane Jones. "Hopefully it will help us have a great year. Our expectations are high."

Region 7 may not have been voted into the state-wide Top 5 after a disappointing finish last season. Only Springville managed to play in the Top 8 teams at the 4A state tournament, but that could change this year as it seems no team is a favorite to dominate in any of the regions.

Orem was voted No. 1 in the region and returns all but two players from last year's team. The Region 7 race was a nail-biter last year with three or four teams vying for that top region spot. Provo and Springville have athletic teams and solid coaching staffs and should challenge as well.


E-mail: adonaldson@desnews.com