Sophomore Samaya Morin is one of the returning players for the Lake Stevens volleyball team. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

Sophomore Samaya Morin is one of the returning players for the Lake Stevens volleyball team. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

Key storylines for the high school volleyball season

Can the Lake Stevens Vikings continue their winning ways?

Five storylines for this year’s high school volleyball season.

1 Lake Stevens isn’t feeling any pressure. In each of the past two seasons, the Vikings went undefeated until they reached the Class 4A state tournament, but the team’s main focus isn’t on extending the streak.

“Undefeated two years in a row through districts is an amazing feat, no matter what sport you’re in,” Vikings coach Kyle Hoglund said. “I don’t want to sound somewhat cliche, but we’re just going out this year to make districts and whatever happens after that happens. If we can go undefeated, that’s great. But that’s a hard thing to do. There’s a lot of nights and a lot of things that have to happen and go your way to do that.”

Lake Stevens graduated three All-Wesco selections but returns seniors Brooke Valentine and Grace Schrodel, a third-year starter and 2017 first-team all-conference pick, and a talented sophomore class highlighted by outside hitter Samaya Morin.

2 Snohomish looks to improve on its 2017 state placing. The Panthers return a key group of seniors and some talented underclassmen from a squad that placed at the 3A state tournament. It was the team’s first time placing at state since 2010 — and a taste of postseason success left the Panthers hungry for a deeper run.

“A lot of teams say, ‘If we can make it to the state tournament, we’re happy.’ This year our girls want to place better than they did last year,” Panthers coach Alex Tarin said. “A top-three or top-five would be very good for this team, but some of (the girls) have their eyes on the prize. They think we can go out and win this whole thing.”

3 No clear favorite in Wesco 3A. Wesco 3A has seen a different conference champion in each of the past three seasons, and it could be four this year with a bevy of teams expected to battle for the top spot. Stanwood, Arlington and Snohomish are expected to be in the mix, and Oak Harbor could be a dark horse after a 3-0 start.

“It might sound cliche, but you never know (who’s going to be the favorite). Sometimes you think one team is going to be strong and they’re not. Other teams you kind of overlook and they end up winning the conference,” Tarin said “You just look at the standard (strong teams) — Stanwood, Arlington — they’re greatly coached. I know they’ve got some of the best players in Wesco coming back. Lynnwood always puts up a strong fight every year. You just never know.”

4 After a year of growing pains, Monroe enters the season with size, experience. After taking second in Wesco 4A and making it to state with a senior-laden squad in 2016, the Bearcats spent last year breaking in several new players. Monroe heads into this season with 10 returning varsity players and features eight players listed at 5-foot-10 or taller. Bearcats coach April Munoz said she hopes that combination can help the team control the ball and increase its win total.

5 King’s is the clear front-runner in the North Sound Conference. The Knights won the Class 1A state title in 2017 and appear to be head and shoulders above the rest of their league competition. The members of the new North Sound Conference didn’t win a single set against the Knights in 2017 and are 3-26 against King’s over the past three years.

King’s opened its season with back-to-back wins over Class 4A schools — both in straight sets — and its top competition for conference supremacy over the past few seasons, Archbishop Murphy, has moved to a new league.

The Knights return Alli Hansen, Dominque Kirton and Baily McCutchen at outside hitter, which King’s coach Bart Foley said will be the strength of the team.

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