We’re not even a full week through the prep soccer and volleyball season, but it’s never too early to make a few bold predictions given what has already transpired. I’ll probably be wrong in a week, but hey, maybe I’ll get one right.
1. Bellingham’s volleyball team will challenge Sehome for second in the Northwest Conference behind Burlington-Edison.
The Red Raiders eased past Nooksack Valley in their opener, defeating the Pioneers in straight sets, but that’s not the basis of this prediction. Olivia Bjorklund will vie for NWC player of the year honors, and she has a talented supporting cast rife with veteran leadership. In all, Bellingham has three seniors and five juniors, but in talking with coach Kim Bjorklund before the season began, she believes this team has the talent to go far. I think so, too. Bellingham and Sehome face in each teams’ regular-season finale on Oct. 27. That should be a great matchup.
2. Squalicum girls’ soccer team will allow no more than five regular-season goals.
For a second, I thought my prediction would be like “Squalicum will win the NWC regular-season crown,” but that’s not going too far out on a limb. I believe the Storm will do that, but after watching their defense and midfield completely shut down Bellingham on Thursday night, I wouldn’t be too surprised if Squalicum allows less than five goals all year. Of course, some will squeak through given amazing shots and so forth, but the Red Raiders struggled even getting within 20 yards of the goal, the same Bellingham offense that peppered Sehome with shots all night on Tuesday despite losing. Michelle Saunders could be the defensive player of the year given what I saw Thursday, and that Storm midfield looked really strong, too.
3. Blaine volleyball will finish in the upper half of the NWC by years end.
The Borderites, which mind you won just two matches all last year, have already matched their win total from a year ago after defeating Meridian and Mount Baker in back-to-back meetings, albeit non-conference meetings. Mikayla Deming is providing Blaine with a strong presence at the outside hitter position, and coach Bryan Clausen has seemed to change the tide with the program a bit. Blaine might not finish in the top four, but top six? I think it could happen.
4. Garbage goals notwithstanding, Ferndale’s Jordin Bartel will top the NWC in goals scored this year.
Bartel had 11 goals last year, ranking her in the upper-quarter of the conference, and she’s picked up right where she left off with three goals through the first two games. Her coach, Joe Gonzalez, felt she had finally turned the corner this summer and began to tap into her immense potential. Jillian Monson is another option so team’s can’t double-team Bartel all the time, so that will help her cause. Her toughest competition will come from Squalicum’s Kim Hazlett and Kim Dorr, Meridian’s Lexi McKinnon and Blaine’s Ashley Quesada.
5. Lynden Christian volleyball will win the Class 1A state title.
Save the best for last, right? The Lyncs haven’t even played a single match yet, so this is a straight gut call. LC has a front line that I (all 5-10 1/2 of me) has to look up to in Kara Bajema (6-1), Madison Weg (6-1) and Morgan Van Kooten (5-11). That height is paired with talent, too, as Bajema is going to pose a good argument for player of the year when everything is said and done, and the Lyncs could very well be atop the NWC at year’s end, too. Given they finished fourth last year and return much of the same cast, it wouldn’t shock me if Bajema, Van Kooten and Makayla Lancaster add to their championship trophy case.