High School Sports

Van Kooten aims to return at state

When Lynden Christian volleyball’s Morgan Van Kooten suffered a torn anterior crucial ligament (ACL) on Oct. 24 in a match against Nooksack Valley, the senior thought she had lost her career — not just in volleyball but basketball and track and field as well.

“Rehab wasn’t on my mind,” Van Kooten said in a phone interview. “I was thinking ‘I’m done.’ No basketball, no track, no college. I had to get over that and see that there is a future.”

Despite the scare, Van Kooten never stopped being a leader. Immediately after finding out the diagnosis, Van Kooten sent a text to her replacement Riley Van Hulzen.

The message encouraged her teammate, saying that she believed in her and knew she could fill in.

“She was really encouraging to keep going and reach goals that we wanted,” LC coach Kim Grycel said in a phone interview. “We did that and now we’re back here.”

Eventually Van Kooten came to the realization that the injury wasn’t the end and that there was a rehab process she could go through.

In just three weeks, Van Kooten was back on the court. She was cleared to play with a brace Wednesday, Nov. 12, and she came back with a bang.

In her first play back on the court, Van Kooten got a block.

“Blocking is a tough thing. It’s one of the hardest skills to do,” Grycel said. “It really pumps up the team and gets us going.”

Van Kooten, at 5-foot-11, has always been a natural blocker, Grycel said, and it’s a huge part of the Lynden Christian defense.

“I don’t even know how to explain the feeling,” Van Kooten said. “It’s just everything coming together.”

Van Kooten is still day-to-day and her availability for state on Friday, Nov. 14, is still unknown. But regardless of whether she’s on the court or on the bench, Van Kooten brings plenty of championship experience.

She was a state champion for Lynden Christian’s girls’ basketball team and then followed that up with a state title in the shotput.

“It’s really helped her confidence in who she is,” Grycel said. “She has a lot of experience that has helped her develop her leadership and that transfers over to volleyball.”

And while Van Kooten plans to go to college for track and field, she will always have a spot in her heart for volleyball. The fact she’s played three sports her entire high school career has only made the road all the sweeter.

“It’s so fun. I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” Van Kooten said. “I love competition, I love the family and all the different memories and trips. It’s amazing.”

She’s also gotten the opportunity to play on a team that’s gone to state for 18 consecutive seasons, a feat the Lyncs are extremely proud of.

But the Lyncs are still searching for their first state title. Last year, they finished fourth at state.

To improve on that finish this year, Grycel and Van Kooten both point to the defense as something that will get them there.

“We have really been working on defense and minimizing errors,” Grycel said. “We’re trying to focus on making ourselves the best team we can be. Focus on the things we can control.”

And Van Kooten and the other six seniors hope to exit with a bang.

“We want to have people remember us when we leave and the way we play,” Van Kooten said. “We want to show there’s something different about us.”

LC begins play at 9:45 a.m. against Kalama at the SunDome in Yakima.