Lynden Christian’s path to the semifinals of Class 1A State Volleyball Tournament could not have been more full of obstacles.
Face a No. 4 team in the first round? Say hello to Kalama.
Battle the defending champions in the quarterfinals? Nice to see you Cascade.
But those obstacles have been forcibly removed and the Lyncs are now back in familiar territory — the semifinals. For the fourth time since the WIAA adopted rally scoring and bracket play in 2003, LC enters Saturday with a chance to play for the state title. A win Saturday, Nov. 15, at 1 p.m. against Bellevue Christian would allow the Lyncs to play for the big gold ball for the first time in coach Kim Grycel’s 18 trips to state.
The Lyncs dispatched Cascade 25-18, 25-23, 25-14 in surprisingly easy fashion. Despite beating the Kodiaks 3-0 in a tournament earlier this season, Grycel was concerned about how her squad would deal with them a second time.
“I was concerned the sisters (Eliana and Makena Ala’ilima-Daley) would be difficult for us to handle with Kara (Bajema) sick and Morgan out,” Grycel said. “But Maddie (Weg) and Carli (Tjoelker) were incredible.”
Grycel said she was concerned that Cascade’s experience in big matches would weigh in if the match was extended into a fourth and fifth sets. Consider that obstacle left at the side of the road to the semis.
Weg and Tjoelker combined for 11 blocks, 12 kills and 27 assists -- more than enough to get LC back into the semifinals. And Bajema had 15 kills to boot.
Against Kalama, The Lyncs dashed out to a quick two-set lead but the Chinooks gamely battled back to take the third set then took an early 4-0 lead in the fourth set before Lynden Christian powered up and closed out the match.
Playing without front line lynchpin Morgan Van Kooten — a torn ACL on Oct. 24 essentially ended her season — the Lyncs got a step-up performance from sophomore Hannah Rusnak against Kalama.
“Hannah had a couple big kills when we really needed them in the fourth,” Lyncs coach Kim Grycel said. “In her first time at state she really played well.”
Rusnak had 11 kills in the match to go with 19 assists from Tjoelker and 11 kills, 16 assists and five blocks from Weg.
That help was sorely needed with junior stalwart Kara Bajema battling an illness.
“Kara battled through as best she could, but we really needed some other kids to step up.”