LAKEWOOD - Lynden knew its matchup against 2012 2A state champion Yakima West Valley was going to be difficult.
But despite losing to the Rams 25-16, 25-19, 25-20, in the Lions' opening-round match at the Class 2A State Volleyball Championships on Friday, Nov. 15, at Pierce College in Lakewood, they never let West Valley run away.
"Our goal was to score a little bit more in each set ... and we did that," Lynden coach Julie Clift said. "Our whole season has been about peaking at the right time, and I feel we used that match to make ourselves better."
In the first set, Lynden watched the Rams commit four errors in the first seven points, giving Lynden a 5-2 lead. West Valley would rally to win the next five points - and nine of the next 11 - to stretch its advantage to as much as four. The Lions struggled containing the Rams' hitters, Bridgette Webb and Megan Atkinson, as the two combined to produce four kills over a key five-point run in the middle of the first set, giving the Rams a 22-13 lead. West Valley would capture the first set off an error by the Lions.
"West Valley is a big powerhouse, and they have a lot of big hitters," Clift said.
The second set couldn't have started much worse for the Lions, as they lost the first seven points - four of which came off Lynden errors. The Lions managed to win 12 of the next 18 points to come within one point at 13-12 following a kill by hitter Kelsey Bouwman. A net fault on the ensuing point led to West Valley winning the next six points and taking a 19-12 lead. And despite three kills by Lynden hitter Kat Webb, the Rams were able to stave off Lynden. Webb finished the match with a team-high 11 kills and 10 digs.
Webb continually hit into traffic, often finding seams through West Valley blockers. Still, though, the Rams were leaning her direction when it came to sets from Kaitlyn Mark, and Clift was pleased with the way her junior hitter mixed up her shots.
"That is something she has been working on all season long," Clift said. "She hasn't always been able to do that."
The two traded blows in the third set, with Lynden taking the lead five different times - the last being at 19-18. West Valley rallied back due in large part to four kills from Bridgette Webb over the final six points.
Lynden rebounded in the consolation round, defeating Ridgefield 25-23, 17-25, 26-24, 17-25, 15-13 and advancing to the consolation quarterfinals where it will play the winner of the Sumner-Fife match at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 16.
The Lions, as they have done all season, showed their mettle in the waning games of this match. After winning the first, losing the second and winning the third, a story-book ending would be an easy win in the fourth.
Clearly, Lynden likes to make things hard on itself. If losing the first five matches to start the season isn't evidence enough, the Lions' 11-8 lead in the deciding fifth set evaporating to a 12-12 tie does.
But all that hardship at the beginning of the season has hardened the team, Kat Webb said, and overcoming obstacles has just become a part of playing for Lynden.
"We were definitely the underdogs, so it feels so good to come back and beat people, finally," Webb said. "A lot of people didn't believe in us, but we believed in ourselves the whole way."
Webb, whose presence on the court is punctuated by the echoing smack of her strikes, pounded the ball off a platoon of blockers to seal the final point for Lynden.