Three-time Class 4A state volleyball champion Bellarmine Prep clinched at least a tie for the 4A Narrows League championship at home Wednesday with a 3-0 rout of its nearest competitor, Timberline.
The game scores were 25-10, 25-18 and 25-10, but more important than the ease of the victory, said first-year head coach Caroline Meines, was that the Lions have begun to find their identity.
With consecutive wins over the next three teams in the standings, Gig Harbor, Olympia and Timberline (7-4, 7-2 4A Narrows), Bellarmine Prep (11-1, 10-0) has begun to display the improvement and consistency it will need for another successful postseason run.
“What they’ve shown me is a consistent level of energy and play,” Meines said. “The team looks the same from match to match. They’re showing people who they are, and a lot of that is leadership.”
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She credited captains Megan Jacobsen, who led the way with 20 kills against the Blazers, and Claire McCarthy, who had 11 digs, as well as junior outside hitter McKenzie Schwan with being the rallying points.
The Lions jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the first game against the Blazers and built as much as a 20-6 edge.
In the second, Timberline took better care of the ball and got some strong blocking and hitting from junior Julianna Salanoa to take a 7-3 advantage before Bellarmine recovered from early poor passing and won what turned out to be the closest set of the match.
Meines saw improvements on offense and defense during the recent stretch of games, citing strong serving by Jenna Downing, who had five aces Wednesday, and added offense from Addy Woolery. Setter Hannah Pukis has had stellar back-to-back games, assisting 34 times against Timberline after a 39-assist night against Olympia.
Defensively, effective blocking by Schwan, Ashley Suhre and Lizzie Joyce has been a plus.
“Strong blocking makes the back row even better,” Meines said. “It makes the defense so much better to play behind good blocking.”
With playoffs drawing closer, Meines likes the Lions’ blend of youth and seasoning.
“We’re young, but we do have a lot of experienced players who know what the postseason will be like, what it takes to be successful,” she said. “It’s never easy, it’s never scripted. Sometimes you get there the easy way, sometimes you get there the hard way.”
Timberline - 0
Bellarmine - 3
Game scores: 25-10, 25-18, 25-10
Highlights: B: Jenna Downing 5 aces, Hannah Lovejoy 2 blocks, Megan Jacobsen 20 kills, Claire McCarthy 11 digs, Hannah Pukis 34 assists.