This year’s 5A volleyball season tips off with 2016’s winner, Fossil Ridge, a clear preseason front-runner.  The Sabercats will enter the season with an overwhelming majority 1st place vote and will look to return to the state title game for back-to-back championships.  Juniors Riley Zuhn and Catie Semadeni led Fossil Ridge offensively last year.  Both are ranked in the Top-10 of returning players in hitting efficiency and kills.
A strong performance over the past three years has propelled the Chatfield Chargers to a preseason ranking of #2.  With identical overall records and each getting through league play unbeaten, the rankings were close for Chatfield and Rock Canyon.  But going 69-17 over the past three years and a loss in the state tournament to eventual champion Fossil Ridge gave the Chargers a slight edge.  They’re also the Jeffco League’s lone representative in the pre-season rankings.
Rock Canyon received one less vote than Chatfield to give the Continental league their first representative as the 3rd ranked team.  With two league opponents right behind them in rankings, Rock Canyon will rely heavily on junior Keeley Davis to lead her squad.  Davis leads all returnees in kills last year with 421; on the other side of the net she will look to continue her work defensively and build on 2016’s 73 blocks.
The Continental League’s other Top-10 teams round out the top five, with Chaparral slightly ahead of Mountain Vista.  Despite reaching the state finals a year ago, Mountain Vista opens the season in the fifth spot.  The Wolverines finished one game higher than the Golden Eagles in the league race but failed to advance from pool play at the state tournament.  Both teams have enough talent returning to push Rock Canyon for the Continental crown.
Cherry Creek leads the way for Centennial league teams, as the Bruins will begin their campaign ranked 6th overall.  Junior Katie Sherman produced 285 kills last season and helped propel Cherry Creek to an 22-6 overall record and another visit to the state tournament.  Despite the quality roster, Cherry Creek is not guaranteed the Centennial crown as Arapahoe and Grandview are always in contention and Cherokee Trail is just one year removed from a state tournament appearance as well.
The Angels of Denver East continue to make waves in the Class 5A.  Following a regional tournament loss last year, they look for a return to the state tournament behind the play of Qairo Bently.  The junior served up 55 aces a year ago which is seventh best among all returnees.  East was the only 5A post-season qualifier from the City League but could see pressure from 4A Thomas Jefferson in the league race.
Following back-to-back post-season appearances, Arapahoe is ranked 8th in pre-season polling.  The Warriors won six of seven league games a year ago but will need to overcome the loss of several graduating seniors.
The Warriors will need to overcome the loss of their top four hitters from last year.  No player with more than 57 kills returns for the Warriors but Carly Killorin should provide solid play at setter (393 assists).
#9 Grandview and #10 Fairview are solid teams from two conferences that have won the last four state championships.  Grandview, winners of five state crowns since 2005, are always in the Centennial mix while Fairview has been an excellent running mate of late for Fossil Ridge in the Front Range.  Both teams ended last season with a loss to Mountain Vista.
Grandview fell to Mountain Vista in a 3-0 regional final leaving the Wolves out of the state tournament.  Kylee Harr, with 195 kills, was second on the team in hitting last year and she’s the top returnee for the Wolves.
Fairview came up short to Mountain Vista (3-1) in pool play at the state tournament to close out a 22-5 campaign.  Their biggest win came against eventual state champion Fossil Ridge on October 10th as the two teams shared the league title.  The Knights though are in rebuild mode this year as their top four hitters and outstanding setter Audrey Cheng all graduated.
Grandview (18 pts) and Fairview (17) narrowly found a spot in the rankings ahead of such programs as Highlands Ranch (17), Castle View (16), Cherokee Trail (14), Coronado (13), Fort Collins (13), Rocky Mountain (12) and Fruita Monument (11).
Highlands Ranch won 18 matches last season to reach the state tournament where they split pool matches with Fossil Ridge and Coronado.  The Falcons got there by upsetting Denver East in the regional round.  Kelsie Milkowsi ended up second in kills a year ago (305) and becomes option number one at the net this year.
Castle View looks to build on a 15-win season in 2016.  Leading hitter Kate Menz (320 kills) is back for her senior campaign as is top setter Lauren Lowry (843 assists).
Cherokee Trail fell off to a 12-13 mark a year ago but they have a developing star in Sami Campion who dropped in 173 kills as a freshman.  Coronado ended up third behind Rampart and Pine Creek in the CS Metro but are expecting a better finish this season.  Mara Abernathy (315 kills), Jaelyn Hershberger (252) and Mallory Brown (181) were all juniors in 2016.
Fort Collins (9-3) and Rocky Mountain (8-4) finished third and fifth in the Front Range league.  Kaina Roehrkasse (153 kills) and Hannah Serbousek (146) should lead the Lambkins offense with Alie McEndaffer (215), Kaylee Kopp (182), Amelia Berg (155) and Myles Hilbert (108) all returning for the Lobos.
Fruita Monument is the best big school program on the Western Slope.  They just missed a trip to the state tournament in a one game playoff to Pine Creek in the regional tournament but they return top hitters Riley Snyder (329 kills) and Dana Thomson (233).