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Hillcrest defensive specialist Whitney Nemelka could finally breathe a sigh of relief when the volleyball finally touched the floor to seal a five-set victory over Spanish Fork on Aug. 29.
The Huskies hadn't won a match since Sept. 1, 2009, so the emotion that called out loudest was validation as the players whooped and shrieked at finally earning a victory.
"Losing is hard, and it was tough to come to practice sometimes," said Nemelka, the team's libero. "We worked really hard this summer, and all of our hard work paid off."
The Huskies, who feature four seniors on the roster, won a second straight match against Granger, and they see the state playoffs as a not-so-far-off possibility.
"Right after that first win, I told them not to be satisfied or complacent, but to keep reaching higher," Hillcrest coach Sally Williams said.
As the Region 7 season tipped off last week, traditional power Skyline looks to have company in the battle for region supremacy.
The Eagles dominated the region field with a 10-0 record last season, but they lost a preseason match to region opponent Herriman.
Skyline coach Jami Hutchins watched his team struggle through its preseason, but he caught a glimpse of solid play in a win over Highland and a region-opening defeat of Murray.
"We play as many matches in the first couple of weeks to work on the little things like consistency," he said. "Up until about a week ago, they hadn't really reached where I thought they should be. But last week it started to click."
The Eagles look to be strong at net with Aly Stephenson, Madison O'Conner and Kassidy Siddoway controlling hitting and blocking.
Two years ago, Herriman didn't have a gym before the start of school , and the Mustangs struggled with a roster filled mostly with sophomores.
"That first year they only won one game, then seven last year," Nicholson said. "They've put in a lot of work through the summer, and now this senior group has been through the wars and they have experience."
Nicholson listed Sadie Pond, Jacey Saunders and Audrey Lowe as players who have stepped up their games this season.
The rest of Region 7 should be a dogfight. Traditional powers Murray and Olympus struggled through preseason, while Westlake appears to be much improved at 8-5.
A look at Region 7 volleyball
The Hillcrest volleyball team broke a 41-match losing streak that extended nearly three years when it beat Spanish Fork 3-2 on Aug. 29.
Skyline ripped through the Region 7 competition in 2011 with a 10-0 record.
The Herriman volleyball team looks to be much improved in 2012. The Mustangs entered the week at 11-4, including a region win over Hillcrest, after winning just eight games in the past two seasons.