LYNDEN - Senior setter Taylor VanDalen gave a clinic in how to scramble to make the most of Lynden teammates' hustling saves.
Her all-out efforts went a long way toward preserving the Lions' 26-24, 25-23, 25-20 non-league volleyball victory over Lynden Christian before a large crowd Tuesday, Sept. 11, at Jake Maberry Gym.
Both coaches felt they prepared for their Northwest Conference openers in the best possible way - with three encouraging comebacks for the younger Lyncs and with plenty of steadiness under pressure by the more experienced Lions.
"I'm really confident in all our hitters," said VanDalen, who like her other veteran teammates refused to succumb to consistent power-hitting pressure from improved LC seniors Cassie Mulder and Kayla Tiemersma.
"Last year was a heartbreaker for us (when Lynden lost a winner-to-state match)," VanDalen said. "But we're tougher mentally because of how close we are."
VanDalen, a three-sport athlete who has faced countless pressure situations, impressed Lynden coach Angie Dallas.
"Taylor does a great job of scrambling off the net," Dallas said. "She does a fine job of coming back and getting them (difficult balls)."
VanDalen calls her scrambling "bettering the ball," and she did that often enough to give seniors Maddi Hommes (11 kills) and Brooke Bonsen (7) and sophomore Kat Webb (7) plenty of decent opportunities to score.
Meanwhile, junior Stephanie Somers served a match-high six aces, including the winning point in the first game.
Hommes made a perfectly placed winning dink in the second game and served successfully for the third game's final five points, including a match-ending backline ace. Kelsey Bouwman contributed three kills off the bench and Somers also had three.
"Maddi Hommes calls our plays and I totally trust her," said VanDalen, explaining what helps her scramble so effectively.
LC coach Kim Grycel felt the match offered much to build on.
"Cassie Mulder (14 kills) and Kayla Tiemersma (13 kills) had career highs," Grycel said of the power-hitting pair, who stand 6-1 and 5-11, respectively, and are LC's answers to replace two of seven graduated seniors off the Lyncs' sixth-place team at Class 1A state. Juniors Hannah Wynstra and Karley De Jager also displayed power-hitting potential.
"If anyone had told me we would come back like that in the first game when we were down 21-10 to make it 26-24, I wouldn't have believed it," said the longtime coach, who expressed pride in how five non-seniors responded well in their starting debuts.
Grycel was especially gratified by how sophomore setter Madison Weg responded in her first varsity start. Weg logged 30 assists and was 5 for 5 on attacks, the coach pointed out.
"I was also really proud of how freshman Kara Bajema served four consecutive points," (in that first-game comeback) Grycel said.
LC took one-point leads in all three games - 24-23 in the first, 19-18 in the second and 20-19 in the third - but Dallas was gratified that the Lions refused to panic.
"It really was close all the way. Anytime you play LC, you get a great test from a quality program and quality players," said Dallas, whose team came off a fifth-place finish in the 16-team Mariner Tournament. LC placed third in the 32-team Sundome Tournament in Yakima.
At the point the teams were tied at 20 in the third game, only four points separated them for the entire match. Tiemersma scored three points and Makayla Lancaster served an ace for the four points, in the wake of a kill by De Jager and an ace by Mulder, as the Lyncs dug themselves out of a 16-12 hole.
LC sophomores Emily Veening and Morgan Van Kooten also drew Grycel's praise for their first starts.
Lynden welcomes Bellingham and LC hosts Blaine in NWC openers on Thursday, Sept. 13.