EVERETT — The Lynnwood volleyball team achieved its goal at last week’s Class 3A state volleyball championships.
Heading into its third state appearance in the last four years, Lynnwood wanted to be among the top eight teams at the end of the tournament.
With its hard-fought, five-game victory over Mark Morris in the consolation semifinals, Lynnwood advanced to the fifth/eighth place match, where the Royals were swept by top-ranked Blanchet Nov. 15 at the Everett Events Center.
The eighth-place finish was the highest placement for a Lynnwood team at state that anyone associated with the current program can ever recall.
“We were ecstatic,” senior co-captain Brittni Thoreson said of the Royals’ performance. “It was so awesome to come that far and do so well in our senior year. It’s more than you could imagine.”
The key to Lynnwood’s success was the leadership of Thoreson and co-captain Molly Hunsinger after the Royals lost their opening match, said coach Jean Kellogg.
With only a couple of players who had any prior state tournament experience, Lynnwood struggled in a 25-20, 25-16, 25-18 loss to Bainbridge Nov. 14.
“We were a little bit too nervous and not quite ready to play,” Kellogg said. “Things weren’t smooth … we had a group of kids that didn’t know where they were at.”
So following the loss, Kellogg took Thoreson and Hunsinger aside and told them they needed to take charge of the team and be aggressive in the next match.
Kellogg’s talk fired up the Lynnwood duo and their teammates followed.
“I felt that the big turning point was that leadership and how they came out,” Kellogg said. “It was up to those two (Thoreson and Hunsinger) to lead.”
The inspired Royals rebounded for a 25-15, 20-25, 25-16, 25-27, 15-12 victory over Ellensburg in a loser-out match.
“As soon as we started having fun … everything fell into place,” Thoreson said.
The next day Lynnwood defeated Mark Morris 27-25, 24-26, 25-16, 13-25, 15-13 in another loser-out match. The victory guaranteed that the Royals would be coming home with some state tournament hardware.
Five-game matches are nothing new to Lynnwood, which for some reason has played several this season.
“We definitely fight,” Thoreson said. “I don’t know why we take it to five games every time. We never give up.”
The Royals had contributions from their entire lineup in their two victories. Defensive specialist Megan Swanson and setter Julie Nguyen both were all over the court.
“They wouldn’t give up,” Kellogg said. “We had to battle back and forth with (Ellensburg and Mark Morris).”
In its final match, Lynnwood went up against a highly-regarded Blanchet squad that was upset in the first round by Prosser. The Braves prevailed 25-21, 25-18, 25-16.
“Once we got to top eight, I told them I was very proud of them and what they achieved,” Kellogg said. “I told them to give it everything you can (against Blanchet). I thought they tried very, very hard … I know they battled hard to take fifth.
“I felt very, very good. They had given everything they had.”
Hunsinger finished with 74 kills, 53 digs and 10 service aces, while Thoreson had 40 kills, 30 digs and nine blocks. Nguyen recorded 122 assists, Kelsey Ayres added 23 kills and 22 blocks and Daylene Wilkie had 16 kills and 24 blocks.
It took some time for the Royals to come together as a team, Thoreson said.
“We struggled to find ourselves as a team,” she said. “We had the talent. We just didn’t work as well together.”
About halfway through the regular season, everything came together and Thoreson had a feeling that “we could go pretty far.”
Even though Lynnwood went through some growing pains at the start of the season with a new setter, two freshmen players, and only having only two middle blockers, Kellogg believed her team had the potential to make it to state.
“I never expected less,” she said. “I really thought we’d be in the district tournament and I really believed we’d be at state.”
GOOD SPORTS: Lynnwood seniors Brittni Thoreson, Molly Hunsinger and Amanda Crain each received a WIAA medallion for their sportsmanship at the tournament.
The senior leadership was instrumental in Lynnwood’s eighth-place finish.
“The seniors were really pushing those kids to fight,” Royals coach Jean Kellogg said.