WOODLAND — A recent focus on defense at practice paid off for Mark Morris on Tuesday evening in its three-set win at Woodland by scores of 25-8, 25-10 and 25-6.
Mark Morris returned to the court after a weekend sojourn to the Yakima SunDome Festival with its typical performance of stalwart passing and net play full intact. Coupled with a renewed attention to the defensive end, it was too much for a young, inexperienced Beavers side to handle.
A trio of seniors carried the Monarchs in the dominant three-set win. Hallie Watson had a 100 percent game passing off the serve/receive stage of play, Kendall Blondin had a game-high 17 assists and libero Madi Noel led with 14 digs.
“We had a talk about seeing what’s happening on the other side of the net and adjusting our defense accordingly,” Mark Morris coach Carmen Hewitt said. “I think they executed that really well.”
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At the net, senior Reagan Wilkinson was superb against the Beavers, leading the Monarchs with 10 kills and five blocks. Her teammate Ali Millspaugh added nine kills and three blocks. The Monarchs were keyed by the passing of Watson, Blondin and Laney Frasier, who added 11 assists.
“Passing is a big thing that we focus on all the time,” Noel said. “We really work on staying focused and having good ball control on serve/receive.”
The Monarchs took control of their 2A Greater St. Helens League match with Woodland from point one of the first set, jumping out to a 4-0 lead and quickly turning that into a 9-1 advantage as Woodland was simply unable to match the strong, fundamental aspects of Mark Morris’ play.
From there, Mark Morris cruised to a 25-8 first set win.
Woodland took its first lead of the match in the second set at 3-2, however it didn’t last long. Monarchs senior Isabella Merzoian went on a seven-point service run as the Monarchs built their advantage out to 10-3 before yielding the serve back to their opponent. Mark Morris eventually took the second set 25-10 as the Beavers’ ball-control errors continued to plague them deeper into the match.
The third set saw Mark Morris sophomore Analiz Birrueta go on a 13-point service run in building an 18-2 lead before closing the match out with a 25-6 win.
Hewitt pointed out Watson’s perfect night passing as a key for her team as they prepare for the stretch run of league play at the postseason beyond.
“When we play big teams when we go to State, we have to be able to terminate off of serve/receive,” Hewitt said. “That is a huge focus of ours. We can’t give (other teams) chances. So we have to have a pass off serve/receive that allows us to do that.”
As for the Beavers, coach Danielle Hutton is managing an inexperienced squad that is working hard to get better every day it steps on the court.
“This is a very new team, it’s a very young team,” Hutton said. “So they just have a lot of room to grow, which is great. We’re going to see a lot of progress over this season. We’re going to see a lot of growth which is all we can ask for.”
Dasha Vasilenko led Woodland with three kills and six digs. Sydney George added two kills and six digs in the loss, while Tessa Traffie notched two kills.
“We’re focusing on being well-rounded and getting better in every aspect of our game.”
Mark Morris (4-1) will return to the court on Tuesday when it hosts Ridgefield. Woodland (2-3) will make the short travel to Ridgefield on Thursday.