Lynden Christian volleyball coach Kim Grycel has been to the state tournament 19 straight years and has had plenty of talent come through the ranks wearing white and blue.
None of those players, however, have been as talented as senior Kara Bajema.
The 6-foot-2 outside hitter has shattered records in her four years with the Lyncs and gave Grycel her first two state titles, both coming in Bajema’s last two seasons.
This year, with a young squad, Bajema led the Lyncs to a 19-2 record, a Class 1A title and averaged 6.16 kills per set on her way to earning Northwest Conference MVP and Class 1A All-State MVP honors.
She has also been named The Bellingham Herald’s All-Whatcom County Volleyball Player of the Year for the second straight season.
“There’s been a lot of talent that has come through ... but I would say that it’d be a really tough argument against her (being the best player in Whatcom County history),” Grycel said in a phone interview.
To Bajema’s credit, she didn’t rest on her laurels after a state title her junior season — something that would have been easy to do after losing seven seniors and committing to the University of Washington to play college ball, Grycel said.
There’s been a lot of talent that has come through ... but I would say that it’d be a really tough argument against her.
Lynden Christian coach Kim Grycel on if Kara Bajema is the best player in Whatcom County history
Instead, Bajema — along with senior setter Carli Tjoelker — mentored a team loaded with freshmen and won another state title.
“She exemplifies somebody that picked out a goal and went after it,” Grycel said. “She could have let down and been satisfied but she was just determined. That’s her legacy — always believing.”
Bajema’s personality just doesn’t lend itself to giving up on her team and her school just because she already had a championship under her belt.
“Even though you’re a senior, you shouldn’t be able to slack off,” Bajema said in a phone interview. “The people around need you and you have to make sure you’re helping them with what they need to be a good volleyball player.”
The hard work also could pay off in the future.
In her senior season, Bajema not only played the role of mentor but also honed her own skills in practice as she prepares to play for the University of Washington Huskies next year. UW is perennially a nationally-ranked program and consistently in the national title picture.
67-19 Lynden Christian’s record in Kara Bajema’s four years. The span included three straight 19-win seasons.
To find a way into the rotation as a college freshman, Bajema knows she’ll have to develop a vast repertoire of shots and she worked on building that throughout this season.
“As a hitter, you have to make sure you don’t just have one shot. In college, girls can hit just as good as you,” Bajema said. “You have to find something that makes you different as a player.”
Part of that unique quality that makes Bajema so special is her ability to play defense as well as she plays offense, Grycel said. Bajema averaged 2.58 digs per set this season.
That well-rounded game the Lync brings to the court makes her one to watch at the college level. Grycel noted Bajema even has the tools to eventually be an All-American.
“I think it’s super exciting for Whatcom County,” Grycel said. “She has the potential to have an amazing career with the Huskies. I think we’re going to be seeing some special things.”
For Bajema, she couldn’t be more excited to join UW, but will still miss plenty from her time at Lynden Christian.
“I’m going to miss the family we had,” Bajema said. “Also being able to be a senior and seeing the next generation. Next year, it’s back to being a freshman.”
One very talented freshman.