A new chapter in the rivalry between the Lynnwood Royals and Mountlake Terrace Hawks begins on Tuesday as the Royals and Hawks volleyball teams face off at Mountlake Terrace High School.
For the two programs’ coaches, Annalise Mudaliar and Sabrina DeJesus, the night will be about more than just another volleyball match.
If Mountlake Terrace’s DeJesus gets the win on Tuesday, it would not only be her first as coach of the Hawks but would come against her own alma mater and at the expense of her former coach at Lynnwood. DeJesus, a 2017 graduate of Lynnwood, played her entire prep career under the tutelage of long-time Royals coach Mudaliar.
Yes, DeJesus is a former Royal. And while both Mudaliar and Lynnwood High School will always be special to her, DeJesus has now fully embraced the rivalry between two schools just five miles apart from each other.
“I want to beat them,” DeJesus said of her desire to defeat the Royals. “I think I have the same fire that the (Terrace) girls have. When we were going over our goals the first thing they mentioned was they wanted to beat Lynnwood right off the bat. So going in I guess we have the same goals because that was mine too.”
Over at Lynnwood, Mulaliar knows how significant Tuesday’s game is for her team. After all, she is a 2001 graduate of Lynnwood herself and is now in her 11th season coaching the Royals.
“Terrace is our rival and so for them (her Royals squad) it’s always a really fun match because it is their rival school. So they put importance on it,” Mulaliar said. “So it’s always a fun match. The fans are awesome. And now with Sabrina on the other side, it just makes it more personal and more fun in a good way.”
Despite the school rivalry and the passage of time since their coach/player bond, Mulaliar and DeJesus both said they appreciate the ongoing relationship they have built over the past few years.
“Sabrina is one who we have that really great connection and we’ve been able to keep that lasting relationship off the court,” Mudaliar said. “She’s just a gem of a human being. She’s just a really great person so she makes that relationship super easy. I just really love and respect her and I think it’s mutual. We’re able to support each other with what we have going on and cheer for each other even if we’re on opposite sides of the court.”
“Oh she loves me, I know she does,” DeJesus smiled and said of Mudaliar. “She’s a great coach; I think highly of her. She was my second mom so I think highly of her. And I know she thinks highly of me. Win or lose, we will still be family.”
Following her All-Wesco League selection her senior year at Lynnwood, DeJesus played a couple seasons of collegiate volleyball at Shoreline Community College and Multnomah University in Portland. Then at the young age of 20, DeJesus was named the head volleyball coach at Nathan Hale High School in Seattle.
Mudaliar recognized early on that DeJesus had what it would take to coach at the high school level.
“When I had her as a player her volleyball IQ was just on point,” Mudaliar said of DeJesus. “There’s players, they have it inherently. She just understands the game of volleyball. She was our libero and she just had this calm, confident presence on the court. (She could) direct the court, knowing what to do. So I always knew she would be a great coach.”
DeJesus admitted that while she was competing at the high school level she thought often about someday joining the coaching ranks.
“I always saw myself coaching,” DeJesus said. “I think Annalise was really a great coach that just brought that to me and made me want to be her in a way. Which is funny because we’re rivals now.”
Prior to the start of the 2022 season, Mudaliar had hopes of bringing her former player to Lynnwood as an assistant coach for the Royals but the timing just didn’t work out. After the season ended and Mudaliar learned the coaching job at Mountlake Terrace would be available beginning in 2023, she didn’t hesitate to recommend DeJesus for the position.
“So when that opportunity came up … they reached out to see if I knew anybody,” Mudaliar stated. “I said, ‘I know somebody!’”
“Sabrina, she knows how to have it be about volleyball and about the girls and (how to) mash that together,” Mudaliar continued. “She’s got a great future ahead of her for coaching. She’ll be great.”
Tuesday’s Terrace-Lynnwood matchup won’t be the first time that squads coached by DeJesus and Mudaliar have squared off on the volleyball court. When at Nathan Hale, DeJesus brought her team to Lynnwood for the 2021 season opener.
“It was super fun to see her (DeJesus) in the gym and see her doing her thing,” Mudaliar recalled of that non-league contest. “We won, but it was a competitive match.”
DeJesus remembers that 2021 match also and how Mudaliar made the night light and amusing. “It felt a little funny,” DeJesus said, “because she made little faces at me. We joked around back-and-forth.”
This time around, their clash will have a little more consequence; the contest is a Wesco League match with Lynnwood looking to stay hot and Terrace trying to get its first win of the year.
The Royals have started the season 4-0 and have yet to lose a set in those four victories. The team is one of the favorites to win the Wesco League 3A crown and is currently tied for third in a coaches rankings of the top 3A teams in the state.
Mudaliar, a 2022 Wesco League Coach of the Year, is not surprised by her squad’s early-season success. “Last year they got a taste of state — and it had been 20-plus years since our program had been there — and so they came in with a ‘we want it’ mentality. So they have approached it that way from the very beginning. With practice, they are very intentional. They know what they want to do and they just get down to business.”
For the Hawks, the first two weeks of the 2023 season have been a struggle with losses to Redmond, Marysville-Pilchuck and Marysville-Getchell. But DeJesus thinks her squad just may be able to pull off a big upset when they host the Royals.
“I kind of know how she coaches,” DeJesus said of Mudaliar. “And I have some things up our sleeves that we’re going to be working on going forward. They have good outsides (hitters); they have good middles (blockers); our goal is to break that down. I’m not too nervous.”
“I think it’s going to be a good game and the girls want it too. We’re going to give them our best,” DeJesus added.
First serve of the Terrace-Lynnwood Wesco League volleyball match is scheduled for 7 p.m Tuesday, Sept. 19, at Mountlake Terrace High School.
— Story and photos by Doug Petrowski