The Lynden Christian girls showed how they won the past two Class 1A state titles, and Ferndale’s Whitney Walker showed why she has been recruited to play beach volleyball for Texas A&M.
The Lyncs (10-0 overall, 9-0 Northwest Conference) retained the league lead with a 25-17, 25-22, 19-25, 25-18 win over the Class 3A Golden Eagles (8-2, 7-2) in a Coaches vs. Cancer match Thursday, Oct. 13.
Longtime LC coach Kim Grycel was gratified by the response of the Lyncs, for whom co-captains Emmalee Bailey and Hannah Rusnak are the team’s only seniors to go with three younger returning starters.
“We got challenged by a very strong Ferndale team. They blocked pretty well and we were frustrated,” said Grycel, whose Lyncs were tied 12-12 in the first game, 19-19 in the second game and 17-17 in the fourth game before taking the lead for good in all three. “I was proud of how we fought through that frustration. Ferndale was by far the best team we’ve seen in the league and it was really something to see Walker and Rusnak (19 kills) play so well.”
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Walker earns praise
Walker, who plays mostly beach volleyball on elite teams south of Whatcom County, has verbally committed to Texas A&M. She finished with a match-high 24 kills, with 10, including the winner, in Ferndale’s third game, which was only the second the Lyncs have lost in non-tournament play.
LC libero Bailey, who switched from setter before her junior year, called Walker “just an incredible player. I have so much respect for her. She’s going to do great things in college.”
Ferndale coach Patti Hoelzle agreed: “We don’t see Whitney during the summer league; she’s 10 times better on sand than on the court.” And as the coach noted, that’s saying something.
Rusnak led LC with 19 kills, with five in the decisive fourth game, and junior Riley Van Hulzen and sophomore Jacci Plenkovich had six apiece. Bailey had 18 digs and sophomore setter Sofia Fransen had 33 assists and 16 digs. Avery Dykstra had three aces and fellow returning starter Torina Hommes, a sophomore, turned in a fine all-around effort, with a key block that produced a 23-18 edge in the fourth game.
For Ferndale, 6-foot sophomore Kylie Honrud’s 12 kills supported Walker’s 24, sophomore setter Hailey Pelton made 54 assists and Brittany Olinger had 18 digs.
Walker sparks rally
Ferndale trailed 17-6 in the fourth game before rattling off an 11-0 run that included five kills by Walker and two by sophomore Grace Kildall for a 17-17 tie, broken by a Rusnak kill. Plenkovich scored with a deft cross-court kill near the net for a 21-18 advantage and Hommes followed with a block and Rusnak with a kill for 24-18.
“We really miss Kara Bajema (now playing at Washington) but our underclassmen have really stepped up,” Bailey said. “Hannah Rusnak is a great co-captain. I’m really proud of how our team is playing.”