MARYSVILLE — For the second consecutive season, the Lake Stevens volleyball team is heading to state with a perfect record.
The top-seeded Vikings remained unbeaten and rolled to their second consecutive district title, punching their ticket to state with a 25-11, 27-25, 25-18 sweep of third-seeded Jackson in the 4A Northwest District championship match Thursday night at Marysville Pilchuck High School.
“I’m just so proud of these girls for everything they’ve done — never giving up, fighting through hard times this whole season,” Lake Stevens coach Kyle Hoglund said. “I give it to them. They practice hard, and they come out here and show it.”
The victory secured the Vikings (16-0) a second consecutive trip to Kennewick for the state tournament.
Once again, Lake Stevens will enter with an unblemished record after storming through the regular season and district tournament unscathed.
“It shows heart,” Hoglund said. “It shows character. It’s not easy in any sport to go undefeated.
“It’s not necessarily something we went out for in the beginning. It’s a by-product of their effort and what they do every day.”
Dating back to the beginning of last season, the Vikings have won 34 of their last 36 matches, including 32 consecutive wins over Wesco 4A opponents.
“It’s crazy,” standout senior setter Lillian Eason said of the feat. “It’s unbelievable. It’s so great to be a part of (this) program. This team is so passionate.”
Lake Stevens was firing on all cylinders in the district title match, displaying its dominance during the team’s ninth sweep of the season.
Senior outside hitter Hannah Aaenson pounded out 14 kills and two aces, rocketing a slew of emphatic spikes at Jackson’s defense.
“She is my go-to, and she crushes every ball,” Eason said. “It’s so nice to have a powerhouse and someone (who) is that consistent.”
Eason, a Seattle University commit, complemented Aaenson by masterfully running the Vikings’ attack. The Division I-bound setter dished out 41 assists while adding four kills and four aces.
“Lillian is the quarterback of the team,” Aaenson said. “She carries us. She really helps create the situations that allow us as hitters to hit and get kills.
“(And) not only does she set great balls, but she is an offensive threat. She puts balls down herself.”
Senior defensive specialist Payton Ludwig provided 13 digs, junior Grace Schroedl had 10 kills and freshman Samaya Morin added eight kills for the Vikings.
Aaenson recorded kills on three of the match’s first four points as Lake Stevens stormed to an 11-1 lead en route to a 25-11 opening-set win.
“We came out dialed in,” Eason said. “We were ready, we were so focused and we had passion.”
Jackson (11-6) bounced back, building a 15-10 lead in the second set. But the Vikings rallied to tie the score at 16 apiece, setting up a back-and-forth conclusion to the frame.
After the Timberwolves took a 25-24 lead, Lake Stevens rattled off three consecutive points to claim the set. Schroedl closed the frame with back-to-back kills to give the Vikings a 27-25 win and a commanding 2-0 match lead.
Lake Stevens led for the almost the entirety of the third set, which Aaenson capped with a state-clinching kill that sent the Vikings bench pouring onto the court to celebrate with their teammates.
But as Eason and Aaenson both emphasized, Lake Stevens won’t be resting on its laurels.
After an eighth-place finish in last year’s state tournament, the Vikings are hungry for a deeper run this time.
“Last year, we were kind of (like), ‘Great, we made it to state,’ but nothing beyond that,” Aaenson said. “But now we’re really hungry. We’re really going after it. And we’ve got nothing to lose.”
Jackson has another chance to punch its ticket to state when it faces second-seeded Kamiak in Saturday’s loser-out district second-place match.
The Timberwolves rallied from a two-set deficit to defeat Kamiak in Tuesday’s semifinals, which gives Jackson coach Mindy Staudinger confidence in her team’s ability to bounce back from the title-match loss.
“I think we just go back, reset and focus on the things that we can take care of — blocking, serve-receive and just mentally prepare for another game,” Staudinger said.
“We beat Kamiak in five after being down two sets to none. So (the players) have the mentality to do that and compete.”