Samaya Morin was already one of the best prep volleyball players in the area last year as a sophomore.
But with her Lake Stevens High School volleyball team having graduated its other three all-conference standouts from last season, there were voids to be filled this fall.
The hard-hitting Morin rose to the occasion with another stellar campaign and stepped up as a team captain, leading the junior-laden Vikings to their best state finish in program history.
“I really strongly think that the difference between a good and great player is if they can make the other people around them better,” Lake Stevens coach Kyle Hoglund said. “And she does that day in and day out.”
Morin continued her on-court success with another exceptional season, peppering opposing teams with 4.0 kills per set and a .377 hitting percentage. The standout outside hitter also showcased a strong all-around game, posting 2.9 digs, 0.6 aces, 0.3 blocks and 0.3 assists per frame.
But in addition to Morin’s elite talent, Hoglund said her impact as a leader was invaluable during the Vikings’ journey to a program-best second-place trophy in the Class 4A state tournament.
For her standout junior season and immense role in Lake Stevens’ historic run to the state championship match, Morin is The Herald’s 2019 Volleyball Player of the Year.
“You see in her stats (and) what she does out there, but also what she does off the court,” Hoglund said. “Even in practices, you see her intensity that the girls feed off of. She empowers the other players around her to do what they need to do.
“She stepped into a leadership role,” he added, “being one of our captains and really excelling in that, understanding what that means and taking that on in a fashion that helped her lead her teammates in the right way.”
Surrounded by a talented and well-rounded team, Morin helped the Vikings build on their program’s recent run of success and reach new heights.
Lake Stevens claimed its fourth straight Wesco 4A crown, improving its conference record to 54-2 over the past four seasons. The Vikings then captured the 4A Wes-King Bi-District Tournament title and earned their fourth consecutive trip to state.
Lake Stevens opened the state tournament by winning nine of its first 10 sets, rattling off three straight victories to reach the championship match. The Vikings then fell to Tahoma in four sets, but still finished with a best-ever state placing.
“It was amazing,” Morin said. “Being able to be part of a legacy is something really cool, and I love that I was able to do it with some of my best friends. … It was definitely an experience, and one that I’ll remember forever.”
Morin particularly shined during Lake Stevens’ state-tournament run in Yakima, averaging 4.9 kills and 5.6 digs per set over her team’s four state matches. She hammered out 19 kills in the Vikings’ state quarterfinal sweep of Curtis, then posted a season-high 20 kills in their four-set state semifinal victory over Auburn Riverside. She also provided a season-high 31 digs in the four-set championship-match loss to Tahoma.
“She’s played a lot of high-end volleyball,” Hoglund said. “… She just understands what to do with the ball at the right times, and it’s impressive to watch. Doing what she did at state (against) some of the best players that we have in this state just speaks for itself.”
Throughout the season, Morin tormented opposing defenses with her blistering spikes.
“She just crushes the ball,” Hoglund said. “… Every once in a while, you see her just get a hold of one and hit it in front of somebody and their eyes go wide-open.”
But she also knew when to tone down the velocity and beat defenses with deadly placement.
“She has that awareness to just do (those) nice shots when you need to — taking something off the ball and being able to put the ball in place,” Hoglund said.
Morin elevated her all-around game and played all six rotations for Lake Stevens this season. From last year to this year, she increased her assist total from five to 24. And she particularly displayed her defensive prowess during the Vikings’ postseason run, providing at least 16 digs in four of her team’s final five matches.
“She spent a lot of time in the offseason and this last year really focusing on her defensive ability,” Hoglund said. “She’s spent her whole life so far being a hitter, but really we talked about what’s going to set her apart from other players (is) being able to play all the way around. … She’s spent a lot of time and effort on that, and it’s paid off for her.”
With the Vikings graduating only one senior from their state runner-up squad, Morin said she and her teammates are already looking ahead to making another run at the ultimate prize.
“The day after (the championship match), everyone was like, ‘We’re going to get it next year,’” Morin said. “Everyone has a lot of motivation and drive. We all want to get a ring. … We’re all focused on one thing and all have the same mindset, so I’m super excited to see where that takes us.”