Sophomore setter Grace Rice, pictured, started for the Lions last spring. (Hailey Palmer/Lynden Tribune)

Lions’ season starts next week

LYNDEN — The Lynden volleyball team will have some young faces this year, but head coach Chris Elsner doesn’t see anything wrong with that. 

They’re on varsity for a reason. 

Sophomores Grace Rice, Mya VanderYacht, Ashley Shumate and Haylee Koetje all return for the Lions this year and saw varsity minutes last spring as freshmen. 

Elsner said not much thought is given to what grade they’re in when it comes to how they play on the court. 

“We say young, but they’re varsity,” she said. “If you’re a freshman or a senior you’re still on a varsity team.”

Those four, along with senior Mia Apps and junior Lucy White, will be significant contributors for this year’s team.

With the state tournament back to play for, there’s plenty of excitement heading into the fall. 

“To be able to start like we usually start in August, we’re just itching to take the court,” Elsner said. “I just walked in right now and our floors are polished, our nets are up and our balls are pumped. I can’t wait to start.”

Lynden officially started practice earlier this week, but has been putting in work throughout the summer. 

Unlike other schools, Elsner said they were able to almost mimic what they typically do in a summer, despite the shorter than usual turnaround with sports from last school year ending in late June. 

The team took August on their own without the coaching staff and Elsner said you would think that meant they took more of a break before the season started, but it was the opposite. 

“These girls have been in the weight room dedicated to getting stronger and faster. They’ve been playing outdoors on their own without us coaches putting that together. They love playing, they love being together,” Elsner said. 

“It’s fun for them and that’s the best part. When you’re having fun and there’s joy in the game, performance goes up and it’s just a really good thing. They’ve taken it upon themselves to stay fresh.”

Elsner gave credit for that work ethic to Faith Baar, Sierra McPhail and Anna VanderYacht, the three seniors from last year’s team that have now graduated. 

“The three of them showed these youngins what we’re about, the legacy of Lynden volleyball and just poured into them. It was the coolest thing to watch,” Elsner said. 

The Lions will get their fall 2021 season started Thursday, Sept. 2, with a jamboree at Burlington-Edison with Anacortes, La Conner and Lynden Christian. 

With the group out there this season, Elsner is excited to watch them grow and challenge themselves to be better. That shouldn’t be a problem as she said it’s a group that doesn’t back down from challenges.

“The outcome is the outcome, but they want to hold themselves to the standards they have set. You can’t ask for more than that,” Elsner said.