Troy volleyball has been in this position before. The Trojans are a powerhouse in Idaho Class 1A-Division II volleyball. In fact, some might call them a force in all of the state, regardless of class.
But coach Debbie Blazzard knew after winning their second championship in three seasons that the loss of four seniors from a team that won 30 matches would have an impact.
Cushioning that blow was having outside hitter Lindsey Kwate return for her senior season in 2019 along with sophomores Isabelle Rausch and Morgan Blazzard coming back.
Add to that a couple of solid middle blockers and a good right-side hitter, and it’s easy to see why Troy will be in the state tournament again this season. The Trojans will start their run in the double-elimination tournament at 9 a.m. Friday against North Star Charter at Lapwai High School.
However, it didn’t mean the Trojans (23-3), the district champions, took anything for granted. In fact, they worked just as hard during the offseason as ever.
“This group of girls has been playing volleyball together for a number of years and so they are a very tight knit group,” fifth-year coach Debbie Blazzard said. “I feel like because they play for one another instead of individually, they are able to overcome situations easier.
“We have been working hard during the off season as well as making adjustments during the season to help us be in this position.”
Genesee, whhich finished second in the district, also begins its state tournament Friday, playing Valley at 11 a.m.
Kwate, a Troy co-captain, is one of the best players in the state, and had 14 kills and 19 digs in the district final Oct. 23 against the Bulldogs. But Morgan Blazzard took her game to the next level, recording a season-best 29 kills in the match at Lewis-Clark State’s Activity Center.
Debbie Blazzard said one of Kwate’s best qualities is her passing, and of Morgan Blazzard, the coach said, “She has a really good sense of how the game is played. Because of that she is able to see the court well and make good decisions based on where the ball needs to go for a point.”
But this is no two-trick pony. Senior middle blocker JayCee Johnson is a strong server and is a positive force. Senior middle blocker Abby Weller is strong at the net and is one of the team’s best defenders. Rausch can set from anywhere on the court and can put balls away from anywhere. Junior setter/right side Katelyn Hunter has turned matches in the Trojans’ favor on her serve.
Debbie Blazzard was concerned about her team’s smallish size entering the season. That’s no more. Troy has been able to turn that into a positive.
Now, it’s all about winning a 12th title.
For Genesee (24-7), coach Peter Crowley is expecting his team to bounce back nicely after falling in the district final to the Trojans.
The strength of the Bulldogs is their depth. Six players have scored more than 100 points this season, not including their libero.
Middle blockers Molly Hanson, a senior, and Lucie Ranisate, a sophomore, have 268 and 259 points, respectively, on the season. Four others — Claira Osborne (160), junior setter Carly Allen (133), junior outside hitter Riley Maguire (107) and senior outside hitter Aubree Grieser (102) — combine for another 500 points between them.
Senior libero Regan Zenner is a force defensively with 315 digs, while senior right-side hitters Mikacia Bartosz (.144 hitting percentage) and Kyra Scharnhorst (119 digs) provide added stability.
“I expect us to be really tough defensively and expect our offense to be diverse and efficient when we can get the ball to our setter,” Crowley said.
The Vikings haven’t been to the state tournament since 2016 but won their district this past weekend.
“Region 4 is generally pretty tough, but we’ll just try to prepare like we always do and take it one point at a time,” Crowley said.
Since the first of three meetings with Troy on Sept. 10, the Bulldogs have been on a roll, winning 20 of 24 matches.
This is the 22nd consecutive season Genesee has competed on the State level, something Crowley and his team is not taking for granted.
“We appreciate the opportunity to extend our season by a couple of weeks and compete against the other top teams in the state,” Crowley said. “We can’t wait to lace them up on Friday and get it started.”
Donn Walden may be reached at (208) 848-2258, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @waldo9939.