For two years, Kaitlyn Mark looked on as Lynden's varsity volleyball team took the court.
She knew her opportunity would come one day, but she couldn't help imagining what it would be like once she was removed from her role as a stat keeper and inserted as the Lions' starting setter.
"I was hoping I would get here at one point," Mark said. "Being the main setter, going to state - that was my dream."
The junior setter is just days away from seeing that dream become a reality as Lynden is set to take on West Valley in the opening round of the Class 2A State Championship volleyball tournament at 1:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 15, at Pierce Community College in Lakewood.
Her first start in the Lions' opening game brought about every emotion she thought it would.
"It was very overwhelming, very nervous," Mark remembered. "But once we got out there, I was like, 'OK, time to go. I've been waiting two years for this. Time to push.'"
Practice always has a liveliness to it when Mark is present, Lynden coach Julie Clift said. That's something the Lions needed as the beginning of the season saw five consecutive losses.
Frustration, Mark said, was the predominant mood coming from the Lions' locker room at the time.
"We were like, 'We don't want this season to end all losing,'" Mark said.
A big factor in Lynden's ability to win six of its final nine matches was Mark, Clift said, because of the mentality she brought to each practice, each set, each game.
"She had that never-give-up attitude. 'Come on guys, we still got this. Let's go,'" Clift said. "Even when it came down to the going get tough, not giving up on the court, going for every ball or getting that last serve in. ... She doesn't let anyone get anything up on her if she can help it, and that has kind of rubbed off on the team."
In the Lions' opening-round game against Archbishop Murphy, they fell down 2-1 and fought their way back to win the final two sets. Confidence in the face of adversity is something Mark believes this team stakes itself on, and after losing to Sehome in the second round of districts, the Lions were forced to call upon it again in to a loser-out contest against Lakewood.
Again, the Lions found themselves down 2-1, although this time, there would be no consolation bracket. It would be a trip home and the end of a season.
"Those last two sets were really intense, and we all really wanted it so we had to keep pushing ourselves," Mark said.
In the huddles, Mark and the other girls spoke of responsibility - of not allowing one play define the next. They also asked each other whether they wanted to go to state or not, and what they would be willing to do to make that happen.
Lynden answered by winning the final two sets, with Mark and the outside hitters leading the way to a state berth.
"Everything she does, she is all in," Clift said of Mark. "I knew she was going to go out and be tough."
Reach Alex Bigelow at email@example.com or 360-715-2238. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for other Whatcom County Sports news.
LYNDEN VS. WEST VALLEY
WHEN: 1:30 p.m.
Friday, Nov, 15
WHERE: Pierce Community College