More often than not, Melissa Eyer gets overshadowed by her teammates — both literally and figuratively.
But the Skyview High volleyball team’s 5-foot-1 sophomore libero is the behind-the-scenes engine that has kept the Hawks churning out wins this season.
Skyview won its 11th consecutive district championship Thursday night with a 25-13, 25-20, 25-11 sweep of Eagle in the 5A District Three Tournament championship match at Mountain View High.
Beginning in 2011, the Hawks won seven district titles in a row in the 4A SIC, and they have now claimed four straight since moving up to the 5A classification in 2018.
“It’s kind of fun knowing that everyone has it out to get you, and that when you walk into anyone’s gym, they’re gonna want to beat you. They’re gonna bring a huge crowd, and everyone’s gonna be super hyped,” Eyer said. “But it’s even more fun when you win and just shut them down in their own gym.”
With an overall record of 32-2, the Hawks have shut down just about every opponent they’ve faced this season. In 5A SIC play, the Hawks haven’t even lost a single set to any of their opponents, and their only losses this season came in their season-opener against Utah’s Mountain View High and to 11th-ranked Marin Catholic High School (Kentfield, Calif.) in the prestigious Durango Fall Classic, where they won the silver division championship.
As the wins have piled up, the Hawks have steadily climbed the national rankings. They currently sit 13th in the latest 2021 AVCA/USA TODAY Super 25.
But national rankings are barely a blip on the radar for Skyview, which is focused on defending its state tournament championship. Tournament play runs Oct. 29-30 in North Idaho.
First-round matchups will not be available until Saturday, because Idaho is seeding its state tournaments for the first time this year via MaxPreps computer rankings. Teams still have to qualify for state via their respective district tournaments, but the rankings were locked at the end of the regular season. District tournament games do not positively, or negatively, affect them.
Skyview, Eagle (31-7), Mountain View (26-10) and Timberline (14-12) have all qualified for state, and Centennial (15-13) can advance by winning a play-in game Saturday.
Skyview’s unsung heroes
Rightfully so, Division-I bound outside hitters Alex Acevedo and Eden Bower command much of the attention on the court with their powerful presence at the net.
And sophomore setter Alex Bower can make a play out of seemingly impossible situations. But none of that would be possible without Eyer.
“Oh, she is such an amazing little stud,” Eden Bower said.
Eyer is the first to touch the ball on nearly every play, whether it’s passing a perfect ball or denying an opponent a kill with a fearless dig. She’s also every hitter’s favorite line of defense, crouched behind the play at the net, ready to dive in and save a deflected or blocked ball.
If Eyer is off, so are the Hawks.
“Mel is a huge part of what we do, and she’s an incredible talent,” Skyview coach Kevin Murphy said. “She just does all the things that we need her to do — she passes, her floor defense, her reading, she runs everything down. We actually give her a huge court responsibility, and we ask her to do a lot of things, and she can do it.
“She’s a great player. It’s too bad, liberos in general sometimes don’t get the love. But man, we wouldn’t be where we are without her.”
Junior rightside hitter Kiana Blacker has also played a crucial role this season, stepping into the starting lineup after three-year starter Sydney Nay was lost for the year after tearing an ACL in the Hawks’ second match of the season.
“She’s taken that spot and run with it,” Murphy said of Blacker. “She’s been great.”
Home sweet home
An August storm flooded Skyview’s gym during repairs to its roof, ruining the floor and leaving Skyview without a home court this season.
The Hawks were scheduled to host the district tournament this year, but had to hand off the honor to Mountain View because they couldn’t be certain the floor would be finished in time.
Skyview got to practice on the brand new hardwood for the first time this week, and Murphy said it gave his team just the boost it needed to push through the district tournament.
Before each of their matches, Skyview spent 30 minutes warming up on their own court before busing over to Mountain View.
They plan to savor every practice leading up to state.
“I just feel like we’re so cohesive. We all click together. We all get along. It’s so much fun,” Eyer said. “Everyone works super hard in practice, and everyone just has the mentality of when we come out, we’re just going to dominate, and that’s the expectation.”