It has been 17 years since there was a state volleyball tournament without Lynden Christian.
But before this season, many people thought this might be the year that streak ended.
They were wrong. The Lyncs will open the Class 1A State Tournament against Cascade on Friday, Nov. 9, at the Yakima Valley SunDome.
"Our goal at the beginning of the year was to make it back to state," LC sophomore setter Madison Weg said in a phone interview. "We just wanted to keep the streak alive and prove people wrong."
The Lyncs graduated seven seniors from last year's team, leaving a large void to be filled.
But that didn't mean coach Kim Grycel's squad was left with nothing.
"We have three freshman on the team and three sophomores that start," Grycel said in a phone interview. "At the beginning of the year we struggled; they're really young. We worked really hard at minimizing our errors. It's been a growing process, but I have seen so much from the young kids."
The team had only six returning varsity players from 2011 - Emily Veening, Karley De Jager, Kayla Tiemersma, Weg, Cassie Mulder and Hannah Wynstra - and only one starter remained.
This year, there are five sophomores and three freshmen on the 14-player roster.
Weg is now the starting setter, sophomore Morgan Van Kooten is the starting middle and sophomore Makayla Lancaster is the starting libero.
"Madison has really worked hard and is now running the offense," Grycel said. "Morgan is the reason we beat Cascade Christian, and I have really been impressed with her."
Weg has made it a point this year to step up into more of a leadership role despite her age.
"I'm kind of like the quarterback in that I call the plays," Weg said. "I like to try and encourage people and have fun. I try and make everyone better."
Lancaster is a first-year player after she played soccer last year.
"Makayla has really stepped up in the end," Grycel said. "For her to be starting in her first year is impressive. But she plays point guard (for the basketball team) and is used to having pressure."
With all the new players, the theme for this year's team has been "Young Players Playing Together," Grycel said.
She makes an analogy to graduating seven big horses and now having young ponies that have taken some time, but are now picking up speed and racing towards the finish line.
"This year it is about all of us, not just seniors," said Wynstra, a junior. "I think we are really playing as a team. We all play well for each other and want to succeed. Our chemistry was an issue at the beginning of the year, but we have really meshed well and are playing as a team."
After losing to King's in the second round of the Class 1A Northwest District Tournament, the team needed to win four straight elimination matches in order to qualify for the state tournament. They did more than that - they didn't lose a single game along the way.
"We had to win four (matches) in a row, and that was intimidating," Wynstra said. "We really believed as a team that we could do it, and we won all of them. I am really proud of everyone for that. We just really had to believe in ourselves that we could do it and that we can make it to state."
Now that they've made it, Grycel doesn't think of her team as much of an underdog anymore.
"We don't have the best record (11-9), but we play against some of the hardest teams in the state," Grycel said. "I think being in this conference really makes us better. But at state everyone's good."
Even with all of the success the Lyncs have had in the past, they have never finished higher than third at the state tournament.
"I think we can go far if we keep on doing what we are doing. We need to stay intense and keep working hard," Weg said. "We are peaking at the right time. We made it our goal of making it to state, and now we want to finish the highest LC has ever finished."
Reach Kyle Elliott at email@example.com or 360-715-2271.
TODAY'S STATE VOLLEYBALL
At Pierce College and Lakes High School
? First round: Sehome vs. Washington, 12:45 p.m.
NOTE: A consolation first round or quarterfinal match will follow against White River or Selah.
At Yakima Valley SunDome
? First round: Nooksack Valley vs. King's Way Christian, 8 a.m.
NOTE: A consolation first round or quarterfinal match will follow against Zillah or Annie Wright.
? First round: Lynden Christian vs. Leavenworth Cascade, 9:45 a.m.
NOTE: A consolation first round or quarterfinal match will follow against Woodland or Granger.
LYNDEN CHRISTIAN ROSTER
No. Player Yr. Pos.
2 Emily Veening So. L
3 Carli Tjoelker Fr. S
4 Bridget Kruck Sr. DS
5 Karley De Jager Jr. OH
6 Kendra Turner So. OH
7 Kayla Tiemersma Sr. MH
8 Madison Weg So. S
9 Makayla Lancaster So. L
10 Ashley Midema Jr. OH
11 Morgan Van Kooten So. MH
12 Cassie Mulder Sr. OH
13 Hannah Wynstra Jr. MH
14 Emma Stump Fr. OH
15 Kara Bajema Fr. OH