LYNDEN - What produced so much excitement for coach Julie Clift last year, gave her a headache this time.
It was only a season ago Clift was turning around an up-and-coming Squalicum volleyball club. Under Clift's watch, the Storm transformed from a three-win team to a 10-win playoff contender. But after Clift left the Storm during the offseason and took on the task of revitalizing Lynden's program, the former Squalicum coach got a front-and-center view of what she left behind Tuesday, Sept. 24, at Jake Maberry Gymnasium in Lynden.
"Its funny, after a great play I just had to smile and shake my head," Clift said of Squalicum, "especially on one of those plays where we didn't make a mistake, we were in the right place and we were ready for the ball. It was just a great hit or great placement or great dig or super-competitive serve."
Lynden, which is still searching for its first win, gave Squalicum everything it could handle through the first two sets, but the Storm's experience, surplus of attackers and stingy defense eventually wore down the Lions for a 25-21, 24-26, 25-16, 25-14 Northwest Conference win.
"I think it is a good confidence booster for them," first-year Squalicum coach Laurie Yearout said. "We started to get into a rhythm at the end, and that's what we've been struggling to find the last couple matches."
Squalicum's group of nine seniors has slowly worked themselves from a young, inexperienced team to an athletic group of savvy veterans. With four juniors, no underclassmen exist on their roster, and the number of offensive weapons showed throughout the match.
Meghan Lowry, Celia Larson, Katie Alvord, Ilea Dibble and Atrina Gharai each strung together spurts of strong play, not to mention Tirsa Randall-Grutter's crafty setting and Kayla Chang's great defensive work.
Alvord recorded a team-high 10 kills, Larson had nine and Lowry posted eight. Randall-Grutter said beating the team's old coach added a little something extra to the win.
"We really wanted to beat her this year," Randall-Grutter said. "We had a really good relationship with her last year. She was a good coach. We just really wanted to beat her this year and show that we have a really good coach in Laurie this year."
Randall-Grutter finished with a team-best 35 assists, and Chang led Squalicum's defensive-committed club with 23 digs. The Storm (2-2, 1-1 NWC) needed Chang in a big way, facing Lynden power hitter Kat Webb, who ended with a team-high 15 kills and 17 digs.
Squalicum raced out to a 16-9 lead in the first set, but Lynden (0-4, 0-2 NWC) rallied to cut the lead to 19-18 after a kill from sophomore middle blocker Lauren Roddy, who gave Clift some nice minutes. But the Storm reeled off four straight points after leading 21-20 to win Game 1.
The second set went back and forth. Lynden led by as many as six points before Squalicum rallied back to take an 18-17 lead. Following a Lynden timeout after trailing 24-23, the Lions received a key block and kill from Roddy to seal the second set.
The Storm took over from there, outplaying Lynden 50-30 during the final two sets.
"I definitely think there were highlights and pockets of greatness," Clift said. "There's a lot of things I saw tonight in the first and second sets that we've really been working on with the girls that they're finally starting to do, which is really encouraging. When the other team goes on a run, I think we just tend to get frustrated with ourselves."
Lynden's Alexa Shindruk made a team-best 24 digs, Kelsey Bouwman had six kills and 16 digs and Kaitlyn Mark recorded 18 digs and 30 assists.
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