By Amanda Eggert EBS Associate Editor

BIG SKY – With a team packed with returning players and a strong showing on Aug. 27 at the third annual Battle in the Big Sky tournament, Lone Peak High School volleyball coach Sarah Phelps is feeling confident about the 2016 season.

“This is a team that is going to do great things,” Phelps said. “[When] we started this program six years ago, we were lucky to have 11 [players], so it’s absolutely phenomenal to have so many young women playing volleyball.”

There are 10 girls on the varsity team and 12 junior varsity players—the largest turnout in the history of LPHS’s volleyball program.

Phelps didn’t lose any players from last year’s team to graduation, and three players who earned All-Conference honors in 2015—senior Luisa Locker, sophomore Solae Swenson and senior Bianca Godoy—are back this year.

Last year, the Big Horns had their best season to date, finishing with a 13-6 record. “They’re just one year older, one year smarter, and one year stronger,” Phelps said of this year’s team.

LPHS won all eight matches they played on Aug. 27. In addition to winning the tournament, two Big Horns were named to the All-Tournament team—junior setter Kuka Holder and junior right-side hitter Bryn Iskenderian were recognized by the other coaches for their contributions.

Seven teams competed in the Battle in the Big Sky, including close rival White Sulphur Springs—the team that knocked the Big Horns out of the District tournament last year.

But on Aug. 27, the Big Horns came out on top, losing the first set 16-14 and then rallying in the second to win 15-7. During the third set—played to 11 rather than 15, per tournament rules—LPHS secured an 11-6 win.

Varsity teams from Shields Valley, Fromberg and West Yellowstone participated in the tournament, as well as two junior varsity teams from Big Sky High School in Missoula.

The Big Horns’ home opener is Saturday, Sept. 3, at 7 p.m. against Shields Valley.