Losing the 4A state title to a team they'd beaten twice in region play was so excruciating, the Salem Hills volleyball team still feels the sting nine months later.
"It was tough," said Skyhawks coach Kathy Treanor. "And it's still painful. They don't feel pressure as much as they feel drive."
The team won the Bingham Tournament last weekend with an 8-1 record, including impressive wins over 5A's Bingham and Riverton.
"We're pretty strong," she said of the team that lost only two seniors to graduation and was voted No. 1 in preseason polls. "The expectations are pretty high. There is not much that's going to make these girls happy, but one thing."
Treanor said the community rallied around their impressive season, and after the five-set loss to Timpview, that same fan-base offered support and comfort.
"I was approached on a daily basis," said Treanor. "There was such an outpouring of community support. They still tell us what a great season we had. We really felt like we let the community down."
The agony is something players used to fuel their off-season effort. Whether together or apart, players worked hard to improve their skills. The team is led by senior outside hitter and UVU commit Macky Treanor (who happens to be coach Treanor's daughter), setter and Weber State commit Taylor Christensen and outside hitter Abby Bradshaw.
"We really have great height, and we just have kind of a fun thing going on," said coach Treanor. The Skyhawks will likely feel the most heat in trying to return to the title game from their region foes. Timpview returns much of last year's championship squad, and Salem Hills lost to Maple Mountain and Mountain View in last year's brutal region battle. Both Timpview and Maple Mountain are already off to impressive starts, with the T-birds going 8-1 in the Hunter tournament.
Sky View edged Box Elder for the No. 1 ranking in Region 5, but the teams in this region are among the most evenly matched in the state. Box Elder will be led by returning contributors such as Mitzi Munns.
"We will be young but well-rounded," said head coach Kris Harding. "We are only lacking in experience, but what they lack in varsity experience, they make up for in heart and dedication. They are continually improving and have to major goals — to be region champs and win a state title."
Skyline was voted the top team in Region 7 and is a perennial power. Ranked second, Herriman returns six of seven starters, including setter Jacey Saunders, middle hitter Kenzie Jackson and outside hitter Masi Steel. "This group of five seniors were thrown to the wolves in our inaugural season two years ago as sophomores and managed just one win in 2010, seven wins in 2011," said head coach Bryan Nicholson. "We've had a great summer and placed 12th out of 55 teams at the UVU summer camp."
In Region 6, Bountiful was ranked No. 1, but Woods Cross and Clearfield should compete for top honors.
1. Salem Hills
5. Sky View
1. Sky View
2. Box Elder
3. Mtn. Crest
2. Woods Cross
1. Salem Hills
3. Maple Mountain
7. Mountain View