BELLINGHAM - Lynwood High School claimed the Squalicum Invitational championship Saturday, Sept. 8, at Squalicum High School, overcoming the 12-team field - including five local high school participants - to do so.
And for those five local teams - Bellingham, Mount Baker, Squalicum, Ferndale and Meridian - moral victories and lessons learned will have to suffice.
Squalicum coach Julie Clift, who also helped organize the event, saw this tournament as an early opportunity to gauge her team's abilities as it prepares to start Northwest Conference play.
"We just feel like we're up and up and up with our confidence and our ability level," Clift said. "We didn't win a championship but we gained a lot of ground today."
Squalicum played increasingly well Saturday, winning two of three matches in group play while also capturing two tough victories in the consolation bracket, defeating rival Ferndale for fifth place.
And although Ferndale fell to Squalicum in the consolation bracket, Ferndale coach Patti Hoelzle said she saw a lot of good from her team - mixed in with a little bad.
"We served really aggressively today," Hoelzle said. "We got twice as many aces as we did errors, but one thing we need to firm up is our blocking and how we play when we're tired."
Finishing behind both Ferndale and Squalicum was Bellingham. The Red Raiders found themselves in a difficult spot early in group play, losing five of the team's first six sets, but managed to rebound in the ninth-12th place consolation bracket, winning both their contests to grab a respectable ninth-place finish.
"I think we are a new team," Red Raiders coach Kim Bjorklund said. "In years past, we would fold or not be able to sustain through an entire match ... but I was happy with our play (today)."
Meridian and Mount Baker rounded out the tournament, finishing 11th and 12th respectively, seeing the tournament as an important barometer to see where the teams need to improve.
"I think that everybody learned how to trust one another," Mount Baker coach Mary LeSage said, "and no matter how far down they were, they kept fighting."
And for Meridian coach Shannon Claeys, the experience for her team was most important.
"We have a young group of girls and its kind of their first time playing together," Claeys said. "We have one returning varsity player, so I think they did really well."
Reach DAVID RASBACH at email@example.com or call 715-2271.