It may have been a little overdue, but Lynden Christian’s volleyball team finally got the monkey off its back.
The Lyncs swept King’s in a semifinal Class 1A Northwest District Tournament match on Wednesday, Oct. 29, at Lynden Christian High School, earning some revenge on another of the more dominant 1A schools over the past few years.
“We haven’t beat King’s since ’09, so this was a good victory for us when they had the mental edge,” Lynden Christian coach Kim Grycel said.
Though Lynden Christian won in a 3-0 sweep, the Knights made them work for the 25-23, 25-16, 25-21 win.
Never miss a local story.
Kara Bajema led the way for the Lyncs with 17 kills and 11 digs, including a few key kills in the first set to establish LC’s toughness early.
With the first set tied at 20 after an LC error, Bajema rose up to strike down a strong, well-placed kill for Lynden Christian. The Knights scrapped back to 21-21, but Bajema set a message with another strong kill, prompting a “boom!” out of the Lyncs’ fans.
Up just 24-23 and looking for a key kill to take the set, the Lyncs again looked to Bajema, but an unsung hero delivered the final kill – Hannah Rusnak.
“Hannah is like a secret weapon,” Bajema said. “She’ll get these random kills that are amazing, and sometimes I don’t even know where they come from.”
Rusnak only finished with five kills, but each came when Lynden Christian needed a big kill, Grycel said.
The second set was essentially all LC, as the Lyncs jumped out to a 4-0 lead and maintained a nine-point lead multiple times. Bajema was again key with a big block, followed by a strong kill to put her team up 21-14.
She tipped a ball, but didn’t get enough to put it over on the next point, but came back with a big kill to keep the Lyncs in good position to finish the set.
King’s keyed in on LC feeding Bajema after the first set, so she had to look for alternate routes to earn her kills.
“I made sure to look at who was blocking me to go either sharp cross or sharp line,” Bajema said. “It depended on the size of the blocker, and my back row would talk to me too.”
In the third set, King’s responded. The Knights came out with a more serious demeanor and jumped out to a 4-0 lead of their own. Their quick pace led to a couple of LC miscommunications, but good blocking by Bajema and Riley Van Hulzen brought the Lyncs back level at 9-all.
The district rivals battled back and forth all the way to 20-20. Madison Weg put the Lyncs up by one with a strong kill that the King’s block couldn’t foil. LC earned another point, but gave King’s one back when three different players missed a dig attempt on a well-placed shot.
From there, Lynden Christian closed out with three straight points, forcing the Knights to make costly errors.
“We wanted to beat them really bad,” Bajema said. “We lost a match in the same situation, so we came out with a lot of fire.”
Weg finished with 13 kills, along with 15 assists. Libero Emily Veening had 20 digs, and Carli Tjoelker added 17 assists.
“I thought (Veening) had good ups and our setting was good,” Bajema said. “Carli was really scrappy, and Riley (Van Hulzen) as a freshman came in and blocked really well. I think she led the team in blocks.”
King’s advanced to play LC by defeating Nooksack Valley 3-0 in a first round matchup.
The Pioneers were led by Avery Tenkley’s four aces. Katrina Gimmaka and Brianna Turner each added four kills.
“We have some new players that are in because of some injuries, so I think it was just a lack of experience, and we had a hard time with serve-receive in all three sets,” Nooksack Valley coach Katie Emmons said. “It’s good that our young girls are getting in and getting experience. I saw that we started to be more aggressive especially with serving in our third set.”
Nooksack Valley can advance to bi-districts with a win over the loser of the South Whidbey-Cedar Park Christian (Bothell) semifinal match. The Pioneers will play at 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 1, at Lynden Christian Middle School. King’s will take on Mount Baker at the same time at Lynden Christian High School and the winner will play the winner of Nooksack’s match for third place.
Lynden Christian will take on the winner of South Whidbey-Cedar Park Christian Bothell for the Northwest Districts No. 1 seed going into the Bi-District Tournament.