basketball

Meridian's Skyleigh James will return for the Trojans next year. (Hailey Palmer/Lynden Tribune)

He brings years of experience and success to a young squad that made stat

WHATCOM ­— A familiar face is returning to basketball in the Northwest Conference this winter. Meridian High School announced the hiring of former Lynden Christian boys and Squalicum girls coach Vic Wolffis as head coach of the Trojans’ girls basketball program for the upcoming season.

The Trojans, after fielding a young and inexperienced team last year, will return most of the starting lineup with valuable minutes now gained. In turn, their new coach will bring plenty of experience winning hardware. 

Wolffis led the LC boys program from 1995 to 2009, collecting two state titles in 1999 and 2006 and a runner-up finish in 2001.

Meridian posted a 16-12 record last year, making the state tournament, but was knocked out on the first day in a loss to Annie Wright. Despite being young, the team went 6-2 in a tough February stretch to even get to Yakima. 

Wolffis has spent the last two years away from coaching trying to see if it was something he still wanted to do. He said a lot of things fell into place perfectly for him to pursue the opening for the Meridian girls team. 

“I’m pretty ingrained at Mount Vernon High, which is where I teach, so it really had to be something that could logistically work,” Wolffis said. “I live in Lynden, teach in Mount Vernon and it turns out the logistics of the Meridian job really work well.”

Watching the Trojans on the court the last two years as a spectator and seeing what the young squad was able to accomplish made the job appealing.

“I think the program overall is in a good place, as far as what the girls are being taught,” Wolffis said. “I can see they have some players already in the program that seem to be passionate about the game. All those things together, along with the fact my wife was a go for it, made it a really good-looking job to pursue.”

The Northwest Conference has changed a lot since Wolffis’ first days coaching in the mid-90s, but the level of competition is at an all-time high with two defending state champions (1A Lynden Christian and 2A Lynden) in the multi-classification league this season. 

Wolffis said the Northwest Conference and basketball in Whatcom County have a meaningful history. 

“There’s a lot of nostalgia there, but there’s also a lot of anticipation for the future,” he said. 

Having talked to one of the incoming seniors for the Trojans, Wolffis said they talked about some of the growing pains the team went through last year.

“Even though they were very young, they achieved really well last year,” he said. “It seems like last year was a real maturing process for the team and it seems they used some of the struggles for positive growth.”

In addition to getting the varsity group together this season, Wolffis is hoping for a large enough turnout of girls to field more than just the varsity team — the Trojans didn’t have a junior varsity last season. 

Basketball season, along with other winter sports, is the first chance Whatcom County athletes will have to compete in athletics this upcoming school year, impacted by COVID-19. But even the 2020-21 WIAA Season 2 remains a question mark. 

Wolffis said the uncertainty doesn’t make it any harder for planning, however, from a game standpoint.

“It’s really more of an emotional thing,” he said. “You kind of guard your emotions of how hyped you might get. I anticipate all of us in the program are going to move forward planning on it starting Dec. 28.”

Wolffis said he’s actually looking forward to the shortened year because it makes every game more important, with the likelihood of each game being a league game. 

“There’s really no getting ready or getting the cobwebs knocked out and the rust kicked off,” Wolffis said. “I think we’ll be really focused and things will be really simple at the beginning because your first game is probably a league game that counts.”