TUMWATER — There are rivalry matchups. There are rivalry matchups with postseason implications. And then there’s what happened Saturday up in Thurston County.
With Mark Morris getting upset in the first round of the 2A District IV volleyball tournament, and R.A. Long pulling an upset before losing in the second round, the Lumberjills and Monarchs faced off in one of the rarest Civil Wars in recent memory: winner to state, loser goes home.
And when the dust settled, it was the Monarchs spilling onto the court to celebrate a four-set win, 25-27, 25-15, 25-15, 25-17.
It’s the first time Mark Morris has made it to State since 2012, when all of the current Monarchs were still in elementary school.
“The girls are excited,” MM coach Carmen Hewitt said. “It’s definitely been a goal, and the closer you get, the more pressure you feel. It feels amazing to get to this moment and realize you reached this goal that we set for ourselves.”
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Ellie Weber — the Monarchs’ lone senior — led the way on offense with 18 kills. Emma Fisher put up a 16-kill, 11-dig double-double. Ali Millspaugh had 14 kills to make it three Monarchs in double figures, and Reagan Wilkinson had seven kills and a team-high nine blocks,
“Hitting was completely different from Thursday,” Hewitt said.
Madi Noel had 35 digs to lead the defense in the back, while Millspaugh and Isabella Merzoian each added five blocks. Kendall Blondin dished out 34 assists.
But unlike the first two rivalry matchups this season, which ended in sweeps for Mark Morris, R.A. Long came out firing and drew first blood in a tightly-contested first set.
“R.A. Long is a great team,” Hewitt said. “They are a team that knows us well. Coach Whitney (Nailon) has coached a lot of my girls in club, she knows their tendencies, they play club together. They just know how the play us. They also play a very similar defense, so they know where those holes are. Whenever we play R.A. Long, it’s going to be a grind for both teams.”
On the RAL side of things, Y Ta had 11 kills and a pair of blocks. Kamia Tootoosis-Didier added 10 kills and six digs, Jorden Williamson had nine kills, five digs, and two blocks, and Danni Hopper had eight kills and a team-leading four blocks. Miranda Bergquist logged 31 assists.
Between the first and second sets, though, the Monarchs began to flip the switch.
“We needed to serve better,” Hewitt said. “We missed too many serves in that first set, and we hit out a little bit too much in that first set. We cleaned up the miscues, and we were able to pull ahead.”
R.A. Long finishes its season with a 12-8 record. The Lumberjills’ four seniors — Ta, Bergquist, Hopper, and Williamson — helped take RAL from an 0-20 season their first years on campus, through a global pandemic, to Districts for the first time since 2014, and finished their careers one win away from State.
“I told them, ‘We can be sad, but the only thing we can be sad about is that it’s over for us. Not that we lost or who we lost to.’” Nailon said. “I’m just so proud of them.”
Mark Morris will make its return to Yakima for the first time in nearly a decade; the Monarchs will now wait to learn their seeding fate for the 2A state tournament, starting Nov. 19.