BELLINGHAM - A lot can transpire in two weeks.
Two Thursday's ago, the Squalicum volleyball team dropped its third league match to start Northwest Conference play.
Fourteen days and four wins later the Storm have put itself in the middle of the Class 2A postseason chase.
"We came out against three tough teams, and I think those games hurt some of our confidence," Squalicum coach Julie Clift said. "We started taking it one match at a time, and we're regaining that confidence now."
Junior outside hitter Meghan Lowry led the Storm with a team-high 14 kills and five aces, and sophomore middle Katie Alvord tallied 12 kills and three aces to lead Squalicum to a 25-14, 25-18, 18-25, 25-19 win against Nooksack Valley in a NWC contest Thursday, Oct. 4, at Squalicum High School.
Squalicum (6-3, 4-3 NWC) lost to perennial volleyball powers Burlington-Edison, Lynden and Sehome to put itself in an early 0-3 conference hole, but the work Clift said the Storm completed during the offseason and in practice is beginning to pay dividends.
Following the Sehome loss, the Storm has won four straight and have taken 12 of its last 13 sets played. Squalicum had won 11 straight sets until its third-set loss to Nooksack Valley (4-3, 3-2) Thursday.
"I think we played really well tonight," Lowry said. "Even though we dropped that third set, it never got out of our hands."
Lowry was in control all night. Clift considered the match a breakout game for her hard-hitting junior.
"Meghan has really been a leader on this team since she was a freshman," Clift said. "She had great match tonight. She was on."
The confidence the Storm has slowly built during its winning streak showed early against Nooksack Valley.
Lowry recorded three straight aces and had a kill to quickly put Squalicum ahead 6-1 in the first set, forcing Nooksack Valley coach Jenny Simmons to use a timeout.
The Pioneers cut the lead to 12-7, but kills by Alvord and Kinsey Morris helped Squalicum maintain its sizeable lead. Celia Larson blocked a shot by Nooksack Valley's Kylee Dekoekkoek to capture the first set, 25-14.
A number of hitting errors and three kills by Lowry helped the Storm race to a 13-7 lead in set two. Three straight aces followed by a kill by Pioneers' outside hitter McKenzie Impero cut Squalicum's lead to 15-12. The early deficit proved too much for Nooksack Valley to overcome, though. Lowry locked up the second set with powerful kill to put Squalicum up 2-0.
"It's hard to say why we came out slow in those first two sets," Nooksack Valley assistant coach Katie Emmons said. "They were serving really well and, usually if you serve and serve-receive you win matches at this level."
The third set went back and forth, until a pair of aces and a kill by Lindsay Hayes helped the Pioneers gain an 11-7 lead. After a timeout taken by Clift, Nooksack Valley went on an 8-4 run, prompting a second timeout by Squalicum. Alvord served up two aces and put away a kill to cut the Pioneers' lead to 21-15, but Impero ended the third set with a cross-court kill.
Squalicum stopped any thought of a Nooksack Valley comeback early in the fourth set. Alvord scored Squalicum's first four points as the Storm took a 9-1 lead. The Pioneers climbed back to within two points of Squalicum midway through the set, but a number of Nooksack Valley hitting errors helped Squalicum secure the win.
"I really just wanted to show my team that I could do it for them," Lowry said of her standout performance. "Katie (Alvord) is really playing well. She hits so hard, and she has been a really huge asset to our team."
One of the keys Clift said to the win was Squalicum libero Mikayla Chang's ability to handle Impero's shots.
"Mikayla is her own hardest critic," Clift said. She works hard and got balls up for her teammates."
Reach Andrew Lang at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-756-2862.
Reach ANDREW LANG at email@example.com or call ext. 862.