Roughly speaking, every volleyball team in the Northwest Conference is about half way through their league games.
At this point in the season, many would expect a playoff picture to begin to take form. That isn’t at all the case now, especially in the 2A classification.
The one, potentially two certainties the volleyball season has been able to established: Lynden Christian and Sehome are in a class of their own, and the last two spots in the 2A district playoffs will likely come down to the final one or two games.
Right now, Sehome and Burlington-Edison look like locks for the top two 2A spots. Behind them is a much muddier picture.
Lynden sits in third with a 4-2 NWC record, Anacortes fourth at 4-2, as well. Squalicum is the first team on the outside looking in at 3-3, Bellingham just behind them at 3-4.
Four teams are vying for two spots, barring a major collapse by either Sehome or Burlington-Edison.
Anacortes might have the toughest road despite being in right now, and owning the tie-breaker with the Red Raiders after defeating them in straight sets Thursday, Oct. 9, will certainly help. Of the Seahawks’ final six games, they have to face Lynden, Blaine, Lynden Christian and Sehome, all tough matchups.
Bellingham, on the flip side, has Meridian, home against Lynden, Sedro-Woolley, Mount Baker and Sehome, a much easier schedule to end the year than the Seahawks or Squalicum, for that matter.
Lynden, through its final six games, has Anacortes at home, Bellingham, Burlington-Edison, Ferndale, Mount Baker and Squalicum. Back-to-back-to-back games against the Red Raiders, Tigers and Golden Eagles offer a great opportunity to establish themselves as that final seed, but it can also put them so far behind the Lions might not be able to overcome it.
Finally, Squalicum finishes with murders row, so to speak, with Burlington-Edison, Ferndale, Meridian, Sehome, Nooksack Valley and Lynden. That matchup with the Lions to end the season might be do-or-die for both, but if the Storm make it that far and are still in contention, it would mean Squalicum had upset some of the top programs in the conference.
Saunders, McKinnon unheralded stars
Junior Squalicum striker Kim Hazlett is running away with the Northwest Conference girls’ soccer scoring title with 19 goals, Nooksack Valley’s Tori VandeHoef a distant second with 13.
Even Hazlett’s teammate up front, Kim Dorr, has 12 goals, leading many to believe the Storm are a two-player offensive juggernaut. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
Behind the talented juniors has been senior midfielder/defender Michelle Saunders, who has a league-leading 13 assists, all the while being a legitimate contender for defensive player of the year.
Saunders has stepped into a leadership role for the Storm, taking the place of Lauren Gibb from a year ago, facilitating an offense that has scored a league-best 56 goals, allowing just four in the process.
Likewise, senior Meridian midfielder Lexi McKinnon is second in the NWC with 10 assists, playing an integral role for the Trojans who boast three players with nine goals apiece — Payton Lunde, Janessa Murphy and Emily Brackinreed — and four others with at least two goals.
It’s not a coincidence that both of these teams are enjoying successful seasons, having two seniors willing to facilitate rather than score.