This might be Morgan Lawson’s one and only season on the Templeton High girls volleyball team, but the weight of Friday’s controversial football defeat at the hands of bitter rival Morro Bay was not lost on the senior.
So when she went back to serve at home Tuesday with her Eagles five points away from sweeping the Pirates and staying undefeated in league play, Lawson channeled the frustration of an entire school and put it into serve after serve.
Five consecutive aces later, Templeton had a 25-20, 25-19, 25-15 victory and a perfect 10-0 Los Padres League record.
“I just needed to impress the crowd, because after last Friday’s football game, we really wanted to beat them,” Lawson said. “So I really put my focus into those.”
From her spot in the middle, the 6-foot Lawson had a match-high 11 kills on 14 attempts to go along with seven total aces and two blocks in just her fifth game with the Eagles following a mandatory 30-day holdout after transferring from Paso Robles.
“It was what I’m looking for out of her,” Templeton coach Jodi Kelly said. “She has a deadly serve when she’s on with it. It’s fantastic for the team.”
It wasn’t just the team that benefited from Lawson’s ace streak, as a large contingent of football players and students clung to every point and relished the victory following Friday’s 23-22 loss in the Clash of the Coast football game to Morro Bay.
“We got a little hostility from their crowd, but I told the girls that you’ve got to learn to let that go,” Pirates coach James Bueno said. “When we go into CIF, you’re going to see the same thing. They don’t want us there. You’re going to have people coming at you. Use this as a learning experience for when we get there.”
Lucy Portillo and Lauren Ralston both had seven kills for Templeton (21-7, 10-0), and Ralston, who leads the team in kills and digs, added seven digs, five aces and three blocks.
Josi Kelly dished out 26 assists to go along with two aces, and Sarah Bolts had 12 digs as the Eagles are four wins away from finishing undefeated in the LPL despite losing last year’s County Player of the Year, Autumn Russell, to graduation.
“I feel like we have a deeper team than we’ve ever had,” said Jodi Kelly, who is in her sixth year as coach, “and that just keeps happening year by year.
“Last year we had more superstars, and there was more of a gap between them and the rest of the girls. That gap is closing year by year.”
Russell and fellow senior Mari Stewart accounted for 417 of Templeton’s 867 kills last year on a squad that finished second to Santa Ynez in the LPL.
Ralston leads this year’s team with 225, but is one of five Eagles with more than 100 — with Lawson just getting acclimated.
“They were strong hitters, but now we have a stronger range of hitters,” Lawson said. “We have hitters in every position.”
Templeton led the first set 19-12 before kills by Lexi Beaman and Ellie Fryer helped Morro Bay pull within four, 23-19.
But Elsa Strysko had one of her four blocks, and Julie Cates’ one of eight kills glanced off a Pirates’ finger before going long to give the Eagles a 25-20 win.
Templeton then led by as many as 10 in the second set and opened the third on a 5-0 run as Morro Bay (8-5, 7-3) continued to tinker with its lineup in search of a stable setter.
“We’re still looking for our best team,” Bueno said. “In the past six games, we’ve probably had six different rotations.
“We’re a good team, but we don’t think we’re at our best and we’re going to find it.”
Sybella Paredes became the fourth setter for the Pirates, and finished with 13 assists.
Middle hitter Sierra Emrick had eight blocks and six kills for Morro Bay.
“Sierra is a natural team leader,” Bueno said of the 6-foot-2 senior. “She takes it upon herself to get the girls motivated. When she’s not there, the atmosphere of the practices are different.”
The Pirates face Nipomo, Lompoc and Orcutt Academy before a season-ending match at defending champion Santa Ynez in what will likely be a battle for the LPL’s second seed in the CIF-Southern Section Division 3A playoffs.
The first is expected to belong to Templeton, which eyes matches against Santa Maria, Nipomo, Cabrillo and Orcutt Academy as a chance to enter the postseason as an undefeated league champion.
“We still are the hunters,” Kelly said. “We might be 10-0 now, but it’s important to play every point one and a time. Every point matters, and every point lost hurts.”