Lynden Christian volleyball makes quick work of Overlake

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDNovember 7, 2013 

LYNDEN - Everything about the Lynden Christian-Overlake volleyball game in the opening round of the Class 1A Tri-District Volleyball Tournament was short.

The points, the rallies, even the match itself only lasted 57 minutes, with the Lyncs dispatching the Owls 25-16, 25-12, 25-17 in a loser-out match on Thursday, Nov. 7, at Lynden Christian High School.

"Regardless if the score looked easy, we were nervous ... and your season is on the line, so I thought they rose to the occasion," said Lynden Christian coach Kim Grycel of her team.

The Lyncs advanced to the second round of tri-districts where they will face the winner of the Charles Wright Academy-Forest Ridge match at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 9, at King's High School.

Overlake, despite their apparent lack of size and ability to breach the Lyncs' tall defensive front, weren't being overlooked, Grycel said.

"It doesn't matter what their record is, or what we think, they are the best team we could possibly see in the state (Thursday)," Grycel said.

Junior outside hitter Madison Weg, who tied for a team-high with 10 kills, echoed her coach's play-in-the-moment mentality.

"It gives you that push that you have to win that game," Weg said. "It will make you a little bit nervous, but sometimes that will help you."

Lynden Christian opened the initial game winning the first five points. Overlake managed to come back and take an 8-7 lead after a kill by sophomore outside hitter Emma Ross Williams. Lynden Christian, though, reeled off a streak in which it won 13 of the next 16 points, with sophomore outside hitter Kara Bajema recording three kills in the process. The 6-foot-1 Bajema also recorded a block in the run - one of several the Lyncs had in the first set.

Weg finished off the first set with an ace that deflected off the Owls' libero, Andreea Gavrilescu.

Winning the opening set was a welcome return to form for Lynden Christian, which last time it played, lost in straight sets to King's in the championship game in the Northwest District Class 1A Volleyball Tournament.

"We had a tough loss against King's the other day, so to bounce back and be really confident (was nice)," Grycel said.

Specifically, Grycel was pleased to see her team produce less serving errors, and errors all around.

The second game came and went, with the Lyncs jumping out to a quick 17-6 advantage. In the middle run where Lynden Christian distanced itself from Overlake, the Lyncs' size advantage was apparent. Bajema, Weg and Karley De Jager all stand 6-foot-1, with Morgan Van Kooten and Hannah Wynstra coming in at 6 feet.

"It makes people try to hit around us, and that makes it easier for us to defend," Grycel said. "(Height) is a nice thing to have."

Bajema finished the set off with a commanding kill down the left baseline after a cross-court set from Weg.

The Owls offered a bit more of a challenge in the third set, taking the first two points and staying with them throughout much of the game. A stretch of four points - two blocks by Van Kooten and two kills by Weg - gave Lynden Christian the space it needed at 19-14. Weg recorded another kill at the end of the set, and junior libero Emily Veening's ace that skidded along the backline secured the Lyncs' spot in the second round.

Quick, economic points were a staple for Lynden Christian in the straight-set win. Aces, too, and errorless play, gave Overlake little to try to pounce on, which certainly pleased Grycel, who never once opted to call a timeout during the match.

"I did not feel like my team needed me to take a timeout because I felt like they were in control, they were confident and they never looked like they were rattled," Grycel said.

All characteristics she hopes her team will be able to duplicate come Saturday.

Reach Alex Bigelow at alex.bigelow@bellinghamherald.com or 360-715-2238. Follow on Twitter @bhamsports for other Whatcom County sports news.

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