Stuart Johnson, Deseret News
Pleasant Grove's Danika Mendivil is back from injury to lead No.1 Vikings.

Jamie Schapper isn't a familiar name to local volleyball fans. But Jamie Kartchner is.

The former Pleasant Grove all-state setter who led the Vikings to a 4A title in 2001 is now married and has returned to her alma matter to lead the program she once helped as a player.

Schapper is a very fortunate first-year coach in one regard — she walks into a gymnasium full of talent.

In a pre-season poll of 5A coaches, the Vikings were voted the No. 1 team in the state. Part of that respect comes from the fact that they have junior outside hitter Danika Mendivil back in the lineup after an ACL tear kept her out the entire 2007 season.

"We have the talent and we have a good team chemistry," said Schapper. "I was just excited to see the talent we have here."

In addition to Mendivil, the Vikings boast players like Utes recruit Brooke McAllister, an outside hitter; junior Melissa Rider and sophomore Kim Dahl, both of whom will play middle blocker. The team already had a talented setter in Kemi McFarland, and then American Fork standout Rae Mulitalo transferred to Pleasant Grove. Schapper said it may take awhile to decide which setter will get the starting spot as they're both very capable.

The new coach's toughest challenge may be taking very talented individuals and creating a successful team.

"I don't want them to get too big of heads," she said. "They need to earn the target on their backs."

Convincing talented teens to work together as a team is something Lone Peak's Deanna Meyer knows something about. The defending 5A champions return just five players from last year's squad, but experience may not matter to this athletic group.

The five returning players are seniors and are led by setter Heather Hanneman, who played defensive specialist and backup to Lacey Laycock, last year's Ms. Volleyball.

"She's a real team player," Meyer said. "She played on the back row last year and never complained. She got to set occasionally but realized she's a part of something bigger and bought into the holistic approach to this program."

In addition to Hanneman, Anna Burgess, Aubrey Moena, Ashton Grey and Taylor Day all earned varsity experience and will provide leadership to their younger teammates.

"These girls provide good leadership, and they really work together well," said Meyer. "This is the strongest group of 15 all the way down the line that I've ever had here."

That's a pretty significant statement as the Knights have won three of the last five 5A state titles and played for it a fourth time.

Brighton returns most of last year's successful squad and will get an early test when it plays Lone Peak this Thursday. Skyline was voted No. 4 and has an almost entirely new lineup but a strong tradition. Coach Jami Hutchins said the players are very athletic and hardworking.

Northridge rounds out the top five but will be tested in region by Layton, Fremont and Viewmont.

Layton, another team with a new coach, won the Skyline Tournament of Champions two weeks ago behind the solid play of senior middle Katherine LeChemenant.

"I got handed a good group of players, and if we don't do something, I should be fired," said coach Ricci Vowles.


E-mail: adonaldson@desnews.com; jolsen@desnews.com