Lake Ridge entered the volleyball playoffs this week, and its nucleus of seniors is looking to improve on last year’s third-round exit.
One of those seniors, Markenzie Benoit, is poised and ready to help make that extended run a reality.
In fact, when the Lady Eagles find themselves in a pinch, Benoit expects to take control and turn the tide.
The 6-foot middle was an all-district first team player last season and her confidence has grown.
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“We have a tendency to run the ‘V,’ my favorite and go-to set if we’re in trouble and need a kill,” Benoit said. “It’s what we go to in a time of need, and I can be the person who changes the momentum and get a kill or a block.”
And she’s gotten plenty of blocks. Benoit should set the school record for blocks as she continues to add to the total.
She’s looking to pad her career blocks as junior Capri Davis is hot on her heels in chasing the blocks record.
This season, Benoit was sitting at 230.5 blocks going into the playoffs.
“It’s fueled my game to keep it going,” Benoit said of the friendly competition.
“They are both so competitive,” said Lake Ridge head coach Jessica Tyler.
Much of the ability to be a force in the middle is Benoit’s quickness and her motivation to dominate.
“I love being in the middle and bringing momentum to the game when I’m on,” she said. “My quickness has always been natural and it’s the thing people know me for.
While Benoit gets her share of kills, it’s the defense she offers which she feels is her strong suit.
“You can go to almost any position on our team and we can put the ball away,” she said of the offensive power surrounding her.
Now the push is to better that third round playoff loss to district nemesis Waxahachie.
To get better, Benoit said she’s focusing on playing better on the back row.
“I serve and play left back and work on defense,” she said. “In practice, I try to spend positional workouts with liberos or outsides, learning to read the ball.”
In addition to working more efficiently from the back row, Benoit isn’t quite sold on her own setting skills.
“I only think I’m a setter,” she said. “It’s not pretty, but I’ll take the set.”
Benoit, who is also a team captain, said her leadership is by example as well as being a vocal player on the court. She admitted she’s routinely hoarse the day after a game.
This season, the Lady Eagles added two freshmen to the mix, which brought additional talent and fun to the team, Benoit said.
With the new chemistry, Benoit said this year’s squad was able to finish a spot higher in the district (second) than last year and it should also be a deeper run in the playoffs.
Making a long run should bring long-lasting memories for the senior, but the current game which sticks in her mind is from her sophomore year.
“That was the year we beat Waxahachie,” Benoit said. “It was a five-game match and it was so exciting, because we weren’t supposed to win.”
Going forward, though, Benoit said they’ll take it a game at a time and they know not to look ahead of the next opponent.
“I’m really excited for the playoffs,” she said. “We get to travel and I know it could be the last time on the court this year.”
But when she does look ahead to next year, Benoit said she’ll be playing at Tulane University, where she wants to study marine biology.