There was little suspense as visiting Life Christian High School’s volleyball team swept Northwest Christian, 25-14, 25-17, 25-8 Tuesday night.
But both teams took something they needed from the match.
The fourth-ranked Eagles (5-0 in the Class 2B Pacific League, 8-0 overall) moved a step closer to a league title while the Navigators (3-2, 9-2) got a chance to grow a young program that shared the league lead heading into this week despite losing seven players from last year’s squad to graduation or transfer.
“I like playing teams like this,” said Northwest coach Jack Lizee, whose team lost its undefeated status to Raymond on Tuesday. “You have a choice: You can let a match like tonight’s take you down, or it can make a better player out of you.”
The inexperienced Navigators had no answer for Life Christian’s sophomore middle blocker Maddie Boles or outside hitter Susan Hurdelbrink. Boles led the match with 11 decisive kills and added three aces with her jump serve. Hurdelbrink had six kills.
“It really helps to have two wild cards like Maddie and Susan,” Life Christian coach Ioane Spencer said. “They’re plug-and-play for me. Wherever I put them, they do well.”
The Eagles, as a whole, displayed strong defensive instincts.
“Defense and serve-receive are really our calling cards,” Spencer said. “And we usually serve well.”
Serve-receive proved problematic for the Navigators.
“They kept us on our heels,” Lizee said. “… We didn’t adapt well.”
Life Christian jumped out to a quick 6-1 lead in the first set, with Boles picking up three of her kills early. The Navigators’ season-leader in kills, Samantha Johnson, broke the spell with a winner to the Eagles’ back row, sparking a 4-0 run that pulled NWC to within a point, 6-5.
But the Eagles pulled away, finishing off the set on a block and two aces by setter Alyssa Donaldson.
In the second set, the Navigators were tied with Life Christian as late as 7-7 before their inexperience showed and they committed six unforced errors in the span of seven points. The Eagles pulled away, again ending the set on an ace by Donaldson, who also finished the match with 10 assists.
“I have so much compassion for Alyssa,” said Spencer, who was Donaldson’s coach on junior varsity before they both moved up to varsity. “It’s been a long progression for her, there were some very difficult practices along the way. But she’s making it pay off in games her senior year.”
The third set was all Life Christian. The Eagles went up by as many as 14-1 and coasted home, ending the match on a kill to the back corner by Hurdelbrink.
Heidi Sowers, who came in with a team-leading .366 hitting percentage, led Northwest Christian with six kills. Abbie VanMarter drew praise from Lizee for the placement of her four down-the-line kills, and sophomore setter Hayleigh Hutchins had 16 assists.
“My hats are off to Northwest Christian,” Spencer said. “To be as good as they’ve been with just nine players in the program is hard.”