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Nooksack Valley secures final state bid with gritty win over Lynden Christian

Pioneers end Lyncs' 18-year state tournament streak with 3-1 win

Nooksack Valley celebrates the point that punched the team's ticket to state Thursday
Nooksack Valley celebrates the point that punched the team's ticket to state Thursday
By Connor J. Benintendi Sports Editor

LAUREL — Senior Lainey Kimball’s game-high 26 kills fueled Nooksack Valley to a four-set victory over Lynden Christian Thursday, Nov. 2 at Meridian High School. 

The win (25-15, 23-25, 25-19, 25-23) sends the Pioneers to the 1A state tournament for the second straight season.

Kimball added a team-high 24 digs and four aces in the winning effort, and senior teammate Tana Hoekema finished off two sets and accumulated 17 kills to snap LC’s 18-year state streak — a stretch that dated back to 2005.

photo  Nooksack Valley senior middle blocker Tana Hoekema gives a signal before a serve. (Finn Wendt/Cascadia Daily News)  

“They don’t make any mistakes, and they’re not going to let you get off easy,” Kimball said of LC. “So, to put an end to that streak … we had our ups and downs, but I feel like we really proved ourselves.”

NV (12-6), which finished third in Class 1A a season ago, entered the game following a difficult four-set loss to Meridian in the 1A District 1 championship on Tuesday, Oct. 31. The Pioneers were tested once again by LC (10-11) in the consolation final on Thursday with win-or-go-home stakes.

The first set came easy, but the Lyncs battled to the end in each of the latter three.

“They are so poised,” NV head coach Katie Emmons said of her team. “Even when [LC] made that huge comeback … I’m proud of them for rebounding and staying so even.”

Nooksack Valley commanded the first set from the start, jumping out to a 13-4 lead early. The Lyncs showed some fight from there, but they never came within seven points of the streaking Pioneers, and NV won the set, 25-15, on a crushing block from Hoekema.

The second frame, on the other hand, was as tight as it gets. NV only held a lead once, 8-7, before the Lyncs managed to keep the Pioneers at arm’s length.

NV was unable to find the same pockets in the LC defense that it found in the first set, and the Pioneers’ defense was frequently in the wrong place at the wrong time.

LC won the set, 25-23, on a final out-of-bounds tip from Kimball. The set victory was also led by the Lyncs’ top outside hitter, junior Malia Johnson, who finished with 15 kills, 21 digs, six aces and two blocks.

“We just talk about not giving up on ourselves, never quitting on ourselves,” LC head coach Kristy VanEgdom said. “If we can’t take care of it ourselves, then who can rely on us?”

NV’s strong showing early in the third set was bolstered by a 6-0 late run to take a 17-8 lead. The Lyncs, however, had a response. After a short huddle, LC emerged from a timeout and rattled off a 6-0 run of its own to cut the Pioneers’ lead to 18-16.

NV managed to re-center itself, scoring seven of the next 10 points, and Kimball finished the frame with an ace that LC couldn’t corral.

In the fourth match, the Pioneers led by as much as eight early on. Again, LC battled back, tying the frame at 18-18 late. Four points later, the Lyncs looked poised to force a fifth set as they controlled a 22-18 lead. 

It wasn’t to be. NV’s offense got one point, then got six more — punctuated by yet another Hoekema finisher.

“She plays with reckless abandon. She doesn’t like to do anything but hit the ball hard,” Kimball said of Hoekema. “We can always count on her to make those big plays when we need them.”

photo  Lynden Christian converges on a ball that got tipped out of bounds on what would be one of the last points of the match. (Finn Wendt/Cascadia Daily News)  

LC’s season came to an end with the loss, and so did its long-standing streak of state trips. VanEgdom said they are looking at it differently.

“It’s not really something that we focused on, to be honest,” she said. “I really think just the growth over the season, and being so young, I really couldn’t have asked for a better team effort.”

Junior Audrey Ellingboe tallied 25 digs for the Lyncs, while sophomore Ella Fritts finished with 24 assists and 16 digs.

NV sophomore Payton Bartl finished with 43 assists, and senior Juliana Gimmaka tallied 22 digs.

The Pioneers will now await their state seeding, and the tournament runs Nov. 10–11 at the Yakima Valley SunDome.

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