Experienced but with a new style, Blaine volleyball team is back

By Oliver Lazenby

Blaine High School’s varsity volleyball team has its sights set on returning to the playoffs after coming up one game short of the state tournament last year.

The team has a lot going for it; it returns six varsity starters and five athletes who played club volleyball in the
off-season.

The Borderites’ six returning starters are sophomore setter Kylah Wilskey, junior Cassidy Condos, and seniors Brynn Hallberg, Kati Newton, Sydney Feenstra and Ashley Dickerson.

“This team is going to compete for sure. They definitely have the experience,” new head coach Jacquie Wilskey said.

Those six returning starters remember the sting of last year’s season-ending 3–0 playoff loss to Lynden, a loss they said was more of a mental defeat than a physical one. They got behind early and couldn’t recover as Lynden
rallied.

To give it an edge, the team is working on its mental toughness, Wilskey said.

“I really feel like this is going to be a successful year for them,” she said. “Staying mentally strong and believing in themselves is really going to get them far. They have the skills; they have a solid foundation.”

Still, replacing Josie Deming and Camryn Vosloh won’t be easy. Both play college volleyball now and made a big impact on Blaine’s team last year, especially on offense.

To make up for those losses, the Borderites are playing a different style of volleyball, with more emphasis on defense.

“It will be a different style of play. I think it will be a quicker defensive game,”
Hallberg said.

Hallberg and teammate Dickerson both said they expect this team to improve upon last year’s record of 10–8 and make it to playoffs.

“I feel like we’re going to be better than last year,” Dickerson said. “We don’t have as strong of hitters – and we do definitely have really strong hitters – but the defense is better and more of a focus for us.”

Wilskey has coached the team as an assistant the past five years and was “patiently waiting her turn” at head coach, she joked.

“I was thrilled to get the opportunity and the girls know me well, so it just felt like a natural fit,” she said.

She’s coached for 18 years total, including eight years at Bellingham. She’s had a smooth transition to leading the team since the girls already know her, but her style is different from that of former head coach
Bryan Clausen.

“I really want to promote strong female leadership,” Wilskey said. “We have a coaching staff that is primarily female and that’s partly because we want these girls to see some really strong female role models.”

Wilskey is working to grow leaders on the court, who can summon the motivation to turn games when opponents rally. Her seniors are stepping up, and the team’s tight bond could also help carry them mentally.

“Everybody gets along really well and we have a different mental bond with each other than we did last year,” Hallberg said. “I think that is a big part of our game because volleyball is 80 or 90 percent mental.”

Blaine’s season started with a jamboree on September 4. The Borderites’ first home game is at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, September 18, against Ferndale.

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