LYNDEN - Even when Mariners coach Kristy White played volleyball at her Sehome alma mater in 2004, Lynden, Burlington-Edison and Anacortes were the teams to beat in Whatcom and Skagit counties.
Eight years later, they still are, but White believes Sehome is slowly adding its name to the mix.
With performances like the one the Mariners displayed against the Lions on Thursday, Oct. 11, at Jake Maberry Gymnasium in Lynden, Sehome's beginning to bring White's words to fruition.
"After the season last year, the girls worked hard and put in a lot of hours in the weight room," White said. "Back when I played, it seems like Lynden, Anacortes and Burlington-Edison were always the top teams."
Mariners hitters Dani Johnson, Taylor Lyall and Katie Becker each recorded 10-plus kills and Sehome took advantage of three extra days of preparation as it beat Lynden 25-16, 25-20, 25-23 in a Northwest Conference showdown between the current top two teams in Whatcom County.
It was Sehome's third straight win against Lynden. The streak includes a win during last year's Class 2A District Tournament that ended Lynden's season. The Mariners advanced to the state tournament
"I think we were all excited," said Lyall of the opportunity to play Lynden. "We had high energy and played really loose. We played really well."
Without a match last Tuesday, Oct. 9, Sehome had a full week to prepare.
White said her team worked on different tactics, a lot passing and defense. Sehome (8-2, 7-1 NWC) responded with crisp play during all three sets.
"I thought we hit tough and really made them play the ball," White said. "Our goal is to get to districts, but really our No. 1 goal is to play one point at a time."
With Johnson serving, Sehome scored seven straight points in the first set to take an 11-5 lead. The run was highlighted by three consecutive Lyall kills.
Lynden (6-4, 5-3) cut the Mariners' lead to 15-12, but a pair of kills by Johnson, an ace by Kendra Thomas and kills by Becker and Taylor Harris extended Sehome's lead to 21-12.
Harris recorded a kill to give the Mariners a 25-16 first set win.
The second set went back and forth early. Lynden took a three-point lead midway through and held a 16-15 advantage after a Maddi Hommes kill.
But, what turned out to be a common theme throughout the duration of the match, Sehome went on another scoring run. This time, two Lynden unforced errors and a kill by Johnson and Becker put Sehome on top 19-16. Trailing 24-20, Lynden couldn't handle a powerful shot by Lyall, and the Mariners took a two-set lead.
"I thought we battled hard," Lynden coach Angie Dallas said. "Sehome is a solid program, and their kids executed."
Six-footers Lyall and Johnson made life difficult on Lynden's back row with powerful hitting and intelligent ball placement, but the combination of libero Kendra Thomas and setter Megan Greer made it all happen.
Thomas' serve receive was strong all night, and Greer seemed to place balls perfectly for Johnson, Lyall and Becker, who White said had no errors the entire match.
"She has been setting really well," said Lyall of Greer, who's been starting in place of the injured Alex Wilkinson. "She gets the balls up, and you can count on her every time."
Lynden appeared determined to force set No. 4 early in the third set. Hitter Brooke Bonsen, who finished with nine digs, gave Lynden a big momentum boost with a kill and a block back-to-back to help the Lions build a 6-1 lead.
Kills by Becker, Erika Smith and three straight aces by Koko Kauhi gave Sehome six of the next seven points, prompting Dallas to take a timeout.
Led by Lyall's hitting, Sehome grabbed a small lead and maintained a two-to-three point buffer the rest of the way. Down 24-22, Lynden setter Kaitlyn Mark executed a well-timed setter-dump shot to cut the lead to 24-23, but Smith ended the game with a cross-court kill.
Becker and Lyall finished with 12 kills and Johnson had 11. Greer recorded 41 assists.
Hommes had a team-high seven kills and 12 digs.
"We have a tournament this weekend in Wenatchee, so it'll be nice to play some more volleyball," Dallas said. "We want to be playing our best volleyball come districts."
Reach Andrew Lang at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-756-2862.
Reach ANDREW LANG at email@example.com or call ext. 862.