Bearcats surprise with title-winning season
Despite losing star Kendal Munoz to graduation, Monroe surprised even its coach by winning the 4A North title
That was about the time senior outside hitter Melina Seabrook and senior setter DD Latimore said they started to believe this season could be something special.
"When we beat both Snohomish and Lake Stevens who are our biggest competition," Seabrook said. "It was great."
"It was like, 'We are going somewhere,'" Latimore added.
The Bearcats were indeed going somewhere. They were well on their way to a perfect 8-0 record in league and a 12-2 record on the season and, more importantly, a 4A Wesco North championship.
Before the season, the coaches voted Snohomish as the overwhelming favorite in the Wesco North. The Bearcats weren't even the clear cut favorite to finish second in their league, in some cases that distinction belonged to Lake Stevens.
But the season belonged to the Bearcats.
"I knew it was possible, but I didn't expect it to be honest with you," Monroe head coach April Munoz said of her team's rise to the top. "This group of girls isn't quite as experienced as we have had in the past, especially the hitters. So, I figured this season would be actually a lot more challenging than it was. But they have really worked hard and have a lot of heart."
The Bearcats journey continues today when they face Lynnwood to open the 4A District 1 tournament at Mountlake Terrace H.S. If Monroe is able to win two matches today it will advance to the 4A state tournament, which Munoz and the girls say is the ultimate goal.
"The goal is state," Latimore said. "We want to go all the way."
The Bearcats volleyball program has a history of, at the very least, being very competitive. But logically, it isn't hard to see why some thought that they might regress this season. Kendal Munoz, an All-Wesco setter and hitter from a year ago and coach Munoz's daughter, graduated after the 2011 season meaning the Bearcats lost one of their leaders from the past several seasons.
"Kendal has a very strong dominant personality," Munoz said. "So I knew we weren't going to have the same leadership that we had out of her, but I knew the senior group coming in may not have been as vocal, but they had the maturity to handle it. So I was waiting to see who would step up and we have about three of my seniors that vocally and energy-wise have stepped into the role of being leaders and that's what has made a huge difference."
Seabrook and Latimore said while it was sad seeing Munoz go, it left them with something to prove.
"Kendal is a great player and it was sad to lose her," Latimore said. "But we wanted to step up and fill the spot and prove that we could."
"We love Kendal and we loved having her," Seabrook added. "But at the same time we are a new team and we were going to do whatever we could to be just as good or better than last year."
Without question Seabrook is one of the three seniors that have taken on the leadership role this season. Her emotions on the court seem to fire up her teammates.
"It's not something that I think Melina sets out to do," Munoz said. "I think just naturally she has such a passion and a love for the game that it just spills into everybody else. And she wants it so badly that those around her can't help but want to help her achieve that goal. I don't know that it is clearly conscious. I just think that she is a little studly athlete that we've been lucky to have."
Districts also bring up an opportunity for the North schools to get their first taste of the Jackson Timberwolves. Jackson's only losses of the season came in tournament play and the Timberwolves head into districts as the second-ranked 4A team in the state. If Monroe is fortunate enough to advance to the district championship, it seems likely that it would see the Timberwolves on the opposite side of the net -- which is OK with the Bearcats
Aaron Lommers covers prep sports for The Herald. Follow him on twitter @aaronlommers and contact him at email@example.com.
When: First round, semis, tonight, 5 p.m.; championship, consolation semis and third-place match, Thursday, 5 p.m.
Where: Mountlake Terrace and Snohomish H.S.
Preview: Jackson is the overwhelming favorite in the 4A tournament, with the two finalists getting state berths. The third-place finisher will play a Kingco team for the right to go to state. Monroe, Kamiak and Lake Stevens are definite challengers.
When: First round, semis tonight, 5 p.m.; championship, consolation semis and third-place match, Thursday, 5 p.m.
Where: Glacier Peak and Marysville Pilchuck H.S.
Preview: Unlike the 4A, the 3A is wide open. Division champs Stanwood and Shorewood are by no means overwhelming favorites, with dangerous Everett and Meadowdale waiting in the wings to snatch the district title. The top three teams advance to state.
When: First round, semis, Wednesday, 4:30 p.m.; championship, consolation semis and third-place match, Saturday, noon
Where: Sammamish and Squalicum H.S.
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