Alexa Cox had no idea she would play a primary role for Lynden in her longest day in high school volleyball.
The sophomore defender also did not realize how much confidence she would gain over a span of more than eight hours.
With standout junior libero Catyler Alex sidelined by illness, Lions coach Julie Clift called up Cox from the junior varsity to play the majority of the minutes at libero in her own school’s tournament.
Cox helped Class 2A Lynden go unbeaten until the Gold Bracket final, won by 3A Stanwood 25-19, 25-17.
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“She sure did look like she belongs on the varsity,” Clift said of Cox, who had 15 digs in only two sets and tied with junior outside hitter Lauren Roddy with a team-high three aces.
Clift also praised Roddy, who had a team-high 10 kills, and junior Maddie Kramme “for consistent hitting.”
What did Cox do early Saturday when she learned she would play?
“I called my parents!” she said with a grin. Nothing like having a couple more supportive fans on hand.
Cox, realizing how good Catyler Alex is, expressed a realistic outlook.
“I’d rather play fulltime on the JV and swing (play limited reserve minutes) on the varsity than be on the varsity bench,” said Cox, who opened the championship match with an ace. “I want to get the repetitions. I was nervous early on at times, but I felt I belonged.”
With returning fulltime starters Kaitlyn Mark, Jenna Bonsen, Alexa Shindruk and Taryn Frey along with experienced Ally Dahm displaying their skills in the 10-team tournament, the Lions won all six of their pool-play sets, then received a bye in the first round of the Gold Bracket.
Lynden eliminated Class 1A Nooksack Valley 25-21, 25-14 in the semifinals to qualify for the title match.
“We steadily increased our intensity throughout the day,” Clift said. “Stanwood is a good team, so this was great competition for us. But we need to minimize our unforced errors.”
Lynden was tied with Stanwood 15-all in the first set and 9-all in the second set, but those unforced errors gave the Lions little chance to stay in the match against Stanwood, which also went 6-0 in pool sets.
Clift figures the Northwest Conference 2A ranks will again be mighty tough.
“Last year, we had four of the top eight finishers in the state,” Clift said of titlists Burlingame-Edison, fourth-place Sehome, seventh-place Squalicum and eighth-place Lynden. “I think it could well wind up that way again.”
Nooksack coach Katie Emmons, whose team beat Klahoya 2-1 in the Gold semifinals, praised libero Mariah Perry and middle blocker Brianna Turner. They helped the Pioneers go 3-3 in a tough pool with Lynden.
“We have a lot to work on and we’ve had several injuries already,” Emmons said.
Bellingham also qualified for the Gold Bracket, which included the top six teams following pool play. The Red Raiders swept Squalicum in the opening round but were swept by Stanwood in the semifinals.
In the Silver Bracket, for the remaining four teams, Mount Baker swept Marysville-Getchell in the semis but the Mountaineers were swept by La Center in the finals. La Center eliminated Blaine in the semifinals.
Bellingham went 4-2 in pool sets, while Squalicum, Nooksack and Mount Baker went 3-3 and Blaine’s young team finished 0-6.