Things weren’t supposed to come so easily for Lynden Christian’s volleyball team Tuesday, Sept. 30, at Bellingham High School.
The Lyncs had just come off a week in which they faced Ferndale (a 3-1 win), the 2013 1A state champion Cascade Leavenworth (a 3-0 victory) and the 2013 1A state runner-up Chelan (a 3-1 win). On Saturday, LC coach Kim Grycel pegged the Bellingham game as a match to see if her team could respond after strong victories.
Lynden Christian answered in an authoritative way, beating Bellingham 25-15, 25-20, 25-13.
“We had a big week last week,” Grycel said. “We knew Bellingham was going to be tough and we were going to be tired, but to come in here and get a pretty dominating 3-0 victory, it was awesome.”
It was apparent to anyone who walked in early enough to catch a couple LC practice swings that the Lyncs hit hard.
Bellingham responded with its best attempts at matching the strong hitting Lyncs, even going on an eight-point run to make it 9-5 in the first set, and it didn’t go unnoticed by Red Raiders coach Kim Bjorklund.
“I haven’t seen us swing as hard as we did tonight or block as many balls as we did tonight,” Bjorklund said. “I’m proud of their effort and their skills tonight.”
But the home squad just couldn’t keep up with the visiting Lyncs.
The Lyncs won the next four points to make it 9-9 in the first before eventually going on a 12-1 run to close the set out 25-15.
It was a set where Madison Weg frequently caught the Red Raiders leaning to defend the LC star outside hitter Kara Bajema, who drew plenty of eyes with her booming hits in warm-ups. Weg played the finesse game, pushing the ball to the back corner on at least two occasions in the first set.
The second set was much more back and forth, but a couple hard blocks by the Lyncs’ Morgan Van Kooten was enough to snag the 25-20 second-set win.
“We had a lot of passion for this game. We really wanted to win,” Van Kooten said. “For blocks, it’s just a switch of momentum. If we’re down and get a good block, it just brings us back.”
Bellingham looked like a defeated squad in the final set, particularly after the set opened with a rotation error resulting in a point for Lynden Christian.
Already down 1-0 before the set started, the Lyncs went ahead 7-2 before an eight-point run made it 18-7.
The Lyncs coasted in from there, much to the displeasure of the somewhat raucous crowd — at least for a high school volleyball game — and Bjorklund.
“I think we could have believed that it could have been anyone’s game tonight,” Bjorklund said. “LC doesn’t walk in the door and just get to win.”
The Lyncs showed their versatility, especially when Bajema wasn’t having her best match. Weg led the team with 10 kills and three aces, Van Kooten had six blocks and five kills, Carli Tjoelker recorded 15 assists and Emily Veening snuck in 18 digs.
“We’re able to attack from everywhere,” Grycel said. “We’re really able to diversify it. It’s hard for other teams to defend.”
Bellingham didn’t have a standout player but recorded 20 kills, nine aces and 64 digs as a team.
The Lyncs finish the toughest stretch of their schedule but face Squalicum on Thursday, Oct. 2, at home before going into the Reach the Peak Tournament on Saturday.
The next big game for LC fans to circle on their calendar is the match against Burlington-Edison on Thursday, Oct. 9, on the road.
“We haven’t beaten (Burlington-Edison) in three or four years. That’s the next really big one,” Grycel said.
For the Red Raiders, Burlington-Edison comes to Bellingham on Tuesday, Oct. 7, but the Red Raiders have Blaine on Thursday, Oct. 2, on the road first.
“This team really likes to compete and get better,” Bjorklund said. “Our goal is to get to districts. … Lose now, win later.”