The Class 1A Northwest District Volleyball Tournament just got a whole lot tougher.
Not just this season, but likely for at least the next two years as well.
Undefeated Bothell Cedar Park Christian, a first-year member of the Cascade Conference, received 32 kills and 5 aces from 6-foot-3 sophomore Samantha Drechsel as the Eagles won a classic title match 3-1 over Lynden Christian on Saturday, Nov. 1.
The Eagles (18-0), who have only one senior, also earned an automatic bid to state. The Lyncs (14-2) will have to qualify at the bi-district tournament Saturday, Nov. 8, at King’s to earn what would be coach Kim Grycel’s 18th consecutive state trip.
In the loser-out semifinals, Nooksack Valley rallied twice to beat South Whidbey 3-2 to gain a bi-district berth while Mount Baker’s season ended with a 3-0 loss to King’s. Kings swept Nooksack 3-0 for third place.
How competitive was the title match?
This competitive: There were 197 total points in only four sets as the Eagles prevailed 25-18, 25-23, 25-27, 28-26 despite 22 kills by LC junior Kara Bajema, who along with Drechsel created a fascinating afternoon of both power hitting and nifty soft placements by two of the state’s leading 1A attackers.
“It really was a good match-up. (Bajema) is one of the better hitters we’ve faced,” said Cedar Park coach Marni Drechsel, Samantha’s mother, who credited the Eagles with the caliber of team effort they had to have to beat the Lyncs.
When Bajema was asked if Drechsel was perhaps the toughest hitter she has faced this season, the Lyncs junior replied, “I think so. She switches up well when she hits.”
The Lyncs suffered what could have been discouraging losses in the first two sets, but did themselves proud with their 27-25 win in the third set, only to lose an excruciating fourth set.
“The third set showed he we can come back, keep fighting and not give up,” said Bajema, who pointed out her team’s losses to Cedar Park and recently to unbeaten Northwest Conference champion Sehome can show the Lyncs where they can improve.
LC received several solid performances before an enthusiastic crowd. Madison Weg and Hannah Rusnak supported Bajema with 12 and 11 kills, respectively, and libero Emily Veening had 10 digs to go with Bajema’s eight. Bajema also had eight blocks and Weg had 19 assists to support fellow setter Carli Tjoelker’s 20.
“We made too many mistakes,” said Grycel, whose team was tied 18-all in the first set but lost the last seven points as the versatile Drechsel served out the set.
In the second set, the Lyncs led 21-20 but lost five of the last seven points.
The third set was quite a show of drama. Drechsel pounded five kills to produce a 25-all tie, but Bajema then took over with a nifty backline kill followed by another power shot to win it.
Grycel agreed the third set rally was big, but added, “I thought we should have won the fourth set.”
Alas for the Lyncs, it was not to be, even though Veening’s ace gave LC a tantalizing 24-21 lead. Two LC errors, however, gave Drechsel the chance to tie it 24-all with a kill.
At that point, Bajema and Drechsel traded kills for 25-all. After a point against the Lyncs on an error, Bajema again tied it at 26-all with a floating soft kill. But the Lyncs could not gain the advantage and an ace by Cedar’s Park sophomore Chloe Bishop ended the highly entertaining match.
Lyncs fans badly missed seeing senior starters Morgan Van Kooten, who recently suffered a season-ending knee injury, and Makayla Lancaster, who has spent the season on the injured list.
When asked why her daughter looked like anything but a sophomore, Marni Drechsel replied, “She’s been playing volleyball since she was 9. She truly loves the sport. She’s an old soul, that’s for sure.”
In Nooksack Valley’s 18-25, 25-22, 21-25, 25-19, 15-10 win over South Whidbey, coach Katie Emmons kept the Pioneers poised and focused at the right times.
Nooksack led 9-8 in the fifth set, but the Pioneers then provided an example of intensity and focus. Avery Tenkley and Brianna Turner scored kills, followed by a South Whidbey error and a kill at the net by Katrina Gimmaka for a 13-8 lead.
Lacey Johnson and Gimmaka combined on a block for a 14-9 advantage and Gimmaka scored the match-ending kill, giving her a team-high 9. Turner had 8 kills and Olivia Berkan scored 7.
Emmons could be proud of her team’s hustle, as exemplified by 22 digs from Tenkley, 19 by Turner and 18 by Berkan.
In the loss to King’s, first-year Mount Baker head coach Paige Huttula said farewell to reliable seniors Emily Yost, Maddy Tanis and Roslyn Schneider.
“I will miss our seniors,” Huttula said.
Sara Verry, a junior libero, had 12 digs for the Mounties.
Baker showed spunk in the second and third sets of the Mounties’ 11-25, 19-25, 17-25 loss to 2013 district and tri-district champion King’s, which almost always plays in the district title match but lost 3-0 to LC three days earlier.
“We struggled with consistency all season,” said Huttula. “We improved and a lot of it was learning life’s lessons.”
In the second set, Baker battled back from a 10-5 deficit to a 19-all tie behind two late kills by Tanis, but the Knights rattled off the final six points.
Baker trailed 15-4 in the third set but pulled within 17-23 before the Knights prevailed.
“They got pretty scrappy on defense,” King’s coach Jeff Fransen said of the Mounties. They did a good job of capitalizing on that. What I admired most was their tenaciousness.”