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48 Teams - One Dream
From small schools to big schools, the goal is all the same when it comes to state volleyball.
Published: 10/25/2018 12:54:08 PM

The first serve will head over the nets Friday morning at just after 9 a.m. Mountain time across six gyms in the Treasure Valley for the 2018 Idaho State Volleyball Championships.

There are 48 teams across six classifications, but one common dream; that being to bring home a state championship trophy. This can be said from the largest school all the way down to the smallest school to qualify for one of the tournaments.

“No matter the size of the school, it takes a group of athletes that are unselfish and all committed to the common goal,” Salmon River head coach Paula Tucker said. “The team would love to honor their fans by bringing home a trophy.”

Each school in every classification faces unique challenges and receives unique support from its fans and community. Those schools will be put to the ultimate test this weekend – facing the best of the best – with only one school per classification able to earn the championship trophy.

Lake City High School, from Coeur d’Alene, is the tenth-largest high school in Idaho, boasting an enrollment of over 1,600 students, including 36 girls competing in the volleyball program. The 29-1 Timberwolves come into the 5A tournament on a roll, having won the Inland Empire League championship and ensuing district title as well. The T-Wolves have only dropped three sets over the entire season and will compete at the 5A tournament at Ridgevue High School in Nampa, where seven other teams await an opportunity to knock them off, including rival Coeur d’Alene High School.

“Being the top-ranked team in the state, we understand that we are a target for other teams,” said head coach Mike Summers. “The girls know they will have to compete for every point, every set and every match.”

Lake City qualified for state in an emphatic way, as senior Reilley Chapman stepped to the line to serve in the third set of the district title game against Lewiston and helped her team score 18 consecutive points to clinch the match. Two players, Klaire Mitchell and Ashley Kaufman, have already committed to play college volleyball. Mitchell is the three-time Inland Empire League MVP.

For Tucker, bringing her team down for state from the small town of Riggins, Idaho, she’ll lead her 11 players (out of a total enrollment in the school of less than 50) onto a bus for the 1A Division 2 tournament at Borah High School. The 12-5 Savages are the second seed out of District 3 behind a powerful Horseshoe Bend team. The talented Mustangs – and the rest of the 1A Division 2 field – simply represent the latest challenge.

“Geographically and with so few players, it’s very hard to scrape together enough kids to travel to tournaments or camps in the offseason,” Tucker noted. “On a daily basis at practice, we don’t even have enough kids to do a full-out scrimmage, so the only time we get to experience a true, ‘game-like’ situation [6-on-6] is at the game.”

But that won’t stop the team from competing.

“We got a slow start this year with our leader, Chevelle Shepherd, coming back from ACL surgery,” Tucker said. “She did not play in the first tournament [of the regular season] and then, when she got cleared to play, it took time for her to find her footing and for the team to come together.”

The team knocked off a good Council team twice in the district tournament to qualify for the state tournament to keep that one dream – a state title – alive.

Tucker has 11 girls in her program. Summers has 36. Tucker’s tallest player stands 5-foot-8, while Summers has eight varsity players who stand taller than that. But, once the ball is served, all the stats and all the scenery goes out the window. Both coaches – both schools – are striving for the same thing.

“To the Lake City community, of course, it would be huge,” Summers said of the team’s goal. “But the Lake City community has high expectations for a team to do something that hasn’t been done before: a state title in volleyball for Lake City High School.”

Summers pointed out the value of multi-sport athletes for every team in the field, regardless of classification. Tucker, who also coaches the girls basketball team at Salmon River, agreed.

“Of the 11 that play volleyball, eight are planning on going to basketball practice on Monday,” Tucker said with a smile. “Or Tuesday … they are trying to talk me into a day off.”

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