By Mark Nelson Herald Writer
MARYSVILLE — Tempo is a word that gets straight to the heart of Archbishop Murphy High School’s volleyball philosophy.
The Wildcats, a team directed by first-year head coach Jeff Curtis to play with speed and precision, utilized both to reach its first class 2A District 1 championship game in three seasons with a 3-0 winner-to-state victory over Lynden Wednesday night at Lakewood High School.
Curtis, who coached three seasons at Eastside Catholic in Sammamish before joining Archbishop Murphy, expects his squad to serve fast, pass fast and kill fast — which during the regular season has resulted in a quick match (13 league matches finished in three games) and a Wildcats win.
It was no different at the district tournament as Archbishop Murphy (15-1 overall) sprinted away with a first-round win and overwhelmed Lynden 25-16, 25-17, 25-20 to reach the district championship game and clinch its fourth consecutive trip to the state tournament.
“It’s all about speed, we don’t waste time,” Curtis said. “We want to make sure that every opportunity, if something easy comes over, that its going back fast and quick with pace so there’s no time to make those (defensive) adjustments. We don’t want to allow a defense to make adjustments.”
Lynden’s (13-3) defense put up a fight in the second game by taking an early 7-4 lead, but Archbishop Murphy battled back for the win. The final game was similar, with Lynden staying close — the game was tied 15-15 — before the Wildcats went on a 10-5 run to finish.
“I think we started off a little slow because we wanted to win it so bad, but then we really picked it up and got into our up-tempo offense and no one can stop us when we’re in our up-tempo offense,” said Archbishop Murphy senior outside hitter Rebecca Gotz, who had 10 kills, two blocks and three service aces against Lynden. “We definitely broke their (Lynden’s) will, you could see it, they just started to become really inconsistent … we just kept pushing on them until they finally fell over.”
Junior Rachel Peterson added nine kills, two blocks and two aces; setter Dani Baehm had 32 assists and senior Savannah Fletcher had eight kills, four blocks and two aces for the Wildcats.
“To go in and win both our matches tonight in three games was really important for us,” Gotz said.
Earlier in the tournament, Lynden outlasted Lakewood 3-1 for a first-round win.
“We were more evenly matched up with Lynden than we thought,” Lakewood head coach Tasha Kryger said of the 25-19, 25-11, 20-25, 25-15 loss. “After that (third game win) we kind of ran out of gas.”
Lakewood (7-10) was eliminated from the tournament following a 3-0 (25-23, 25-12, 25-17) loss to Sehome.
Archbishop Murphy started the tournament on the right foot with a dominant 3-0 victory over Sehome (9-7).
The Wildcats made very few mistakes while racing to a 25-13, 25-6, 25-6 first-round win.
Sophomore Hannah Linsemayer had 17 digs and seven service aces and middle blocker Fletcher had eight kills six blocks and two aces for Archbishop Murphy.
Gotz added six kills, 10 digs and two aces; Baehm dished out 22 assists and had four aces and senior Megan Carlson had three kills and two aces.
“They’ve got a mindset, they know their goal and they’re meeting every goal along the way,” Curtis said of the Wildcats. “They know what they need to do.”
Archbishop Murphy plays Burlington-Edison, a 3-0 winner over Anacortes, at 2 p.m. Saturday for the district championship at Lakewood High School. South Whidbey plays Lynden and Sehome faces Anacortes in Saturday’s earlier winner-to-state consolation games.
2A District 1 playoffs: At Bellingham, South Whidbey split its two matches, losing 3-2 in the first round, and defeating Granite Falls in the second round, ending the Tigers’ postseason.
1B Tri-district playoffs: North Sound Christian defeated Eastside Prep 25-12, 25-4, 25-13 in the first round. North Sound’s Chantelle Meeks had nine kills and four digs. In other matches, Lopez Island beat Crescent 3-1, Mt. Rainier Lutheran beat Grace Academy 3-2 and Neah Bay beat Lummi 3-2. The tournament resumes at 10 a.m. Saturday at Coupeville H.S.