BELLINGHAM - A volleyball net is all that separated two vastly different worlds.
On one side, the Sehome girls laughed, smiled and enjoyed their impending trip to the Class 2A State Championships. On the other side, tears fell from the faces of Lynden's girls as they realized it would be the last time that group would hit the volleyball court together.
After both teams fought through elimination games at the Class 2A Northwest District Tournament at Squalicum High School on Saturday, Nov. 3, the Mariners bested their conference rivals in four sets 29-27, 25-16, 18-25, 25-21, ending the Lions' season for the second consecutive year.
Sehome coach Kristy White was proud of her girls after they fended off two elimination games to grab a spot in the state tournament.
"Our girls have been fighting all season," White said. "We're a little tired, a little exhausted, but they came in, and I wouldn't say it was the best two wins we've had all season, but they got the job done."
White said when she first arrived at Sehome, she started with the goal of making the program a powerhouse. After the win against Lynden, White believes the girls are just beginning to realize how good they can be.
But that win was by no means easy.
In the opening set, Lynden, which found itself in a 15-11 hole, clawed back to even the set at 19. Sehome countered with kills by Taylor Lyall and Erika Smith, stretching the lead to 23-20. After the Lions made a three-point run to tie it up at 24, both teams continued to trade points until Sehome's Dani Johnson notched consecutive kills, giving the Mariners set point. Sehome went on to grab control of the match after taking the opening set, 29-27.
After a hard-fought first set, the Mariners cruised to an easy second set victory, 25-16, but the Lions would rebound, winning the third set 25-18.
In the fourth set, both teams went back and forth, finding themselves in a 12-12 tie. Sehome, though, was able to go on an 11-5 run to give it a 23-17 lead. And in the end, the Mariners were able to pull out the victory and send the Lions home for the second consecutive year.
Lynden coach Angie Dallas said her girls left everything they had out on the court today.
"The girls battled, they played hard, and it means they should be proud of what they accomplished," she said.
The loss would be the last time Lynden seniors Maddi Hommes, Brooke Bonsen, Taylor VanDalen and Kayla Johnson played in the green and gold together.
But for Sehome's senior class, the hope of being the last 2A volleyball team in the state left standing is still very much a reality, something not lost on senior Koko Kauhi.
"We expect to come home with a trophy," Kauhi said. "I'm so glad we made it because it's my last year and I want to go out big."
If Sehome has hopes of winning any kind of state championship, it will have to get past competition which includes the defending Class 2A state champion Burlington-Edison. The Tigers defeated Anacortes in four sets in the championship, putting them in prime position to repeat last year's success.
"It's nice that I have two seniors and four players who played on the state championship team," said Burlington-Edison coach Tawnya Brewer. "They know how to win and when the pressure is on, they tend to play even better."
The Class 2A Volleyball State Championships begin Friday, Nov. 9, and will take place at Lakes High School and Pierce Community College in Lakewood.