If getting a straight-sets win qualifies as a scare, the Davis volleyball team is set up well for a title defense.
The Darts, who won last year's 5A title, opened their preseason against Pleasant Grove on Tuesday Region 1 and Region 4 pitting their powers against each other for the marquee game of the week.
The Vikings who won the championship in 2011 dropped the first two frames before pushing Davis in the third set and taking an eight-point lead before the Darts stormed back. Take this as a harbinger: This season, any matchup between the two regions is a must-watch event.
Davis' recent show of dominance breaks Utah County's stranglehold on 5A volleyball. Before the Darts won the state title last year in straight sets, Pleasant Grove and Lone Peak had met in four of the past six title games. The teams split their head-to-head encounters to take two trophies each, with Lone Peak tacking on one more when it beat Skyline in 2007.
Last year was the first time the Knights were left out of the title clash since they joined 5A in 2005.
Senior outside hitters Camille Walker and Kaylie Kamalu return for Davis this year after knocking off Lehi in the state championship.
"We would have had to play almost a perfect game to beat them," said the Pioneers' All-State first-teamer Bree Bailey of last year's championship game.
But even if Davis repeats, Utah County might still hold claim to the deepest, most brutal region. Lone Peak, Lehi and Pleasant Grove each finished 8-2 through Region 4 play last year prompting at least Bailey to rank their league unquestionably at the top.
"By far, definitely," she said. "Last year was a three-way tie. How much closer can you get? I think we have the hardest region by far."
"Every match is like a state playoff," said Lehi head coach Jamie Ingersoll.
But Region 1 is establishing a presence of its own in 5A. Including Davis, the league placed three in the final top eight finishers Layton finished fifth, and Northridge placed seventh. Region 4 may have missed out on the top spot, but it matched that total: Lehi (second), Lone Peak (fourth) and Bingham (sixth).
"I was really impressed last year with the north region, where Davis was out of. … They have a lot of say right now," said Lone Peak head coach Deanna Meyer.
Still, she isn't shy about how good she expects her team and league to be. The Knights will roll out a frontline that measures above 6 feet at every spot, and are led by ASU commit and junior national team member Kizzy Willey. With other returning seniors such as outside hitter Brooklyn Langaim and libero Makenna Santiago, Lone Peak brings back a versatile and deep squad.
"Utah County volleyball is pretty good," Meyer said. "I'm not going to lie. … It's always going to be a bloodbath in Region 4."
• Last year, Davis became the first team from outside Utah County to win the 5A title since 2006.
• Before the Darts beat Lehi for the championship, Lone Peak and Pleasant Grove and met in three straight title games.