It seemed fitting that on the day that Lynden Christian’s Kim Grycel finally became a state champion coach, it was the player Grycel calls her best ever — Kara Bajema — who played the biggest part in the first title.
Bajema had 14 kills and 13 digs as the Lyncs made short work of district rival Kings, 25-15, 25-22, 25-20 in the Yakima Valley SunDome.
The Lyncs creed for the season was “Start Strong, Finish Stronger” and at no time was that more in evidence than Saturday night.
The Lyncs exerted control midway through the first set, running a 12-5 lead into a 22-12 advantage. The second and third sets simply weren’t as close as the score showed.
As the politely rowdy LC student section celebrated with the Lyncs players and veteran administrator Harlan Kredit, Grycel talked about how the senior leaders made the city’s first volleyball title possible.
“The commitment they made to each other was big,” the veteran coach said. “They believed in what we we wanted to do every day and they just got along with each other all the time.”
Bajema laughed nervously when she talked about the most successful season in school history.
“We talked about state the first day of the season, but it wasn’t about a goal to win, it was about getting here and then seeing what we could do,” she said. The slender junior also admitted that after beating Bellevue Christian in the semifinals, the team felt a large weight had been lifted.
Bajema also said that her success at the net wouldn’t be possible without the contribution of senior Madison Weg.
“Her sets and hits are so helpful,” Bajema said. “You have to have more than one strong hitter. That helps a ton.”
Weg had 11 kills and 14 assists while Carli Tjoelker had 14 assists.
In getting into the finals for the first time in program history, LC had to get past a Bellevue Christian squad that came in unranked and seemingly lightly regarded. Early, the Vikings used up-tempo offense that had the Lyncs back on their heels.
“I want to give credit to Bellevue Christian,” Grycel said. “They came out in a fast offense, and it threw us off a bit. Them being unranked and not here since 2010, they really earned some respect.”
Grycel and Bellevue Christian coach Lauren Anderson spent much of the first game trying to get the officials to get the score correct. At one point, Grycel said, the schools agreed on what the score should be, but it took some negotiating to get the three-sided scoreboard corrected.
After some strong service work by LC’s Erica Shaw pulled the Lyncs into a 15-15 tie in the first set, the Vikings quickly raced to a 21-15 lead. But Lynden Christian dug in, tying the match at 23 before closing it out.
Kara Bajema had 18 kills and 16 digs to key LC’s attack; Madison Weg had 19 assists and 12 kills while Carli Tjoelker had 15 assists and four kills.
Grycel singled out Libero Emily Veening for her 18 digs.