EVERETT — Despite an uneven performance against non-conference rival Lakewood earlier this week, the Archbishop Thomas Murphy volleyball team appears confident as it heads into league play.
The Wildcats showed flashes of the team they want to be, but also struggled with their passing during key stretches of a 25-23, 25-18, 25-16 loss to the Cougars Monday night at Archbishop Murphy High School.
Archbishop Murphy led in all three games but was unable to sustain its advantage. At times, the Wildcats had trouble returning Lakewood’s serves, especially in the second game when seniors Melissa Vanderwel and Breanne Tangen combined for 11 service aces.
“It just is all about our passing,” said senior Molly Reynolds. “Our hitting was there tonight but our passing wasn’t there. We just have to work on talking a lot … talking is the main key in volleyball and we just didn’t do that tonight.”
First-year coach Jim Bettinghouse is still experimenting with his lineup and trying to get to know his players’ strengths and weaknesses. The Wildcats only have three seniors with an otherwise fairly even mix of juniors, sophomores and freshmen.
“We’re still new with each other,” Bettinghouse said. “We’ve got a lot of kids we’re trying at different positions and seeing how they handle it under pressure. Practice is one thing. A game is another. So we’re still plugging people in and subbing people to see who can pass in certain situations.”
At one point in the first game, Archbishop Murphy had a 14-9 lead but Lakewood quickly closed the gap. The Wildcats then led 23-20 and appeared poised to take the game but the Cougars rallied for five straight points to capture the first game.
Archbishop Murphy again had a 14-9 lead in the second game but was outscored 16-4 the rest of the way.
An 11-1 run by the Cougars in the third game sealed Lakewood’s victory.
“Our hitters and setters are there,” Reynolds said. “We just haven’t gotten our passing down yet.”
The lack of passing is something Bettinghouse is confident the Wildcats can correct with a little more work at practice.
“It’s very streaky. Sometimes it’s good. Sometimes it’s bad,” he said. “Once we can get that (fixed), you saw we were ahead in the match the whole way. We can play with them everywhere else. We just need to pass.”
Junior Ashley Werner had seven kills to lead the Wildcats.
In its final tuneup before league play, Archbishop Murphy defeated Overlake 25-11, 25-16, 25-23.
Archbishop Murphy was scheduled to start league play this week and both Bettinghouse and Reynolds are convinced the Wildcats have the makings of a district playoff contender.
The addition of Werner has bolstered the lineup.
“She’s a really big asset to our team,” Reynolds said. “We’re a young team but with the youngsters that we do have, we have a lot of talent.”
Bettinghouse also has brought a lot of enthusiasm and energy to a program that hasn’t experienced much recent success.
“He’s intense when he needs to be … he’s a fun guy when he’s not,” Reynolds said. “I feel we’re the same level if not a higher level than all the teams in our league and I have a lot of confidence that we’re going to make it to districts this year. That’s our team goal.
“Our volleyball team at Archbishop Murphy has never been as good as I think it’s been this year.”