Youth serves talented Monroe well

MONROE — Don’t be fooled.

Monroe has just two seniors on its roster but the third-ranked Bearcats play like a fine-tuned group of veterans, not like a collection of timid youngsters.

Propelled by its triumph in an intense, back-and-forth opening game, the Monroe High School volleyball team beat the Kamiak Knights 3-0 Thursday in a non-league match at Monroe High School. Senior Megan Birch (16 kills, 13 digs), sophomore Kendal Munoz (27 assists, three aces) and junior Meagan McPhetridge (11 kills, four blocks) sparked Monroe, which won by game scores of 27-25, 25-21 and 25-22.

Even though it was a 3-0 sweep for Monroe (5-1) of the Western Conference North Division, previously unbeaten Kamiak (4-1) of the Wesco South kept it close the whole way. But Monroe, No. 3 in the Washington State Coaches Association Class 4A rankings, found a way to win all the key points and put together demoralizing scoring streaks.

That’s exactly what Monroe coach April Munoz hoped for after the Bearcats lost a tough five-game match against ninth-ranked Edmonds-Woodway on Tuesday.

“I was really proud of their maturity. They stepped up and did what they were asked to do,” Munoz said of her squad.

The epic first game, which featured 11 ties and 11 lead changes, set the tone. Kamiak went ahead 19-16 but Monroe reeled off four straight points, including a service ace by Melina Seabrook, one of the Bearcats’ three freshmen.

Kamiak battled and twice got within one point of winning the game (24-23 and 25-24), but Monroe kept fighting and eventually scored three consecutive points to take the opening game 27-25.

The momentum-killing sequence was hard to recover from, Kamiak coach Natalie Bowie said.

“They tried,” Bowie said, “but it just felt like things would not fall into place tonight. Our passing struggled.”

Kamiak, which had lost just one game in its previous four matches this season, was led by junior Jazmyne Dodd (11 kills, 11 digs), sophomore Ally Bowles (22 assists) and sophomore Bryce Larson (10 kills).

Last season Kamiak defeated Monroe 3-1 in a non-league match in Mukilteo. It was Monroe’s only regular-season loss. Monroe later beat Kamiak in the district tournament.

“It was really big” to win on Thursday, Monroe’s Birch said, “because last year we lost to Kamiak and … they’ve always been our big competition.”

Using her height, long arms and solid timing, Birch consistently drilled hits that Kamiak had almost no chance of returning. The University of the Pacific recruit is Monroe’s clear standout hitter, taking the place of prep All-American Kylin Munoz, who is now at the University of Washington.

Excelling in Monroe’s new speedy offense, Birch impressed Kamiak’s coach. “You really got to see Megan shine, and rightfully so. She’s a great player,” said Bowie.

Birch praised her youthful teammates, who are young but know what they’re doing on the court. Nine of Monroe’s 12 varsity players compete year-round.

“Our freshmen are pretty experienced,” Birch said. “They’ve been playing for a long time and they just stepped up and did their job.”

It was the final so-called preseason match for both teams. Monroe will begin Wesco North competition next week when it plays host to Oak Harbor on Oct. 1.

That same day, Kamiak kicks off its Wesco South schedule with a match versus Lynnwood in Mukilteo.

Mike Cane: mcane@heraldnet.com. Check out the prep sports blog Double Team at www.heraldnet.com/doubleteam.

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