SHOSHONE — Having lost just one set in conference play all year, it could be safely assumed that the Lighthouse Christian Lions were basically a lock to win the District IV championship.
But the Lions still had to get the job done — and win it with all the pressure that comes with being the king of the jungle.
Lighthouse swept a tough and still-improving Carey team Wednesday night (25-22, 25-18, 25-13), once again advancing to the state tournament, where the school has won three of the past four state tournaments, finishing second last season.
“The struggle is always to keep your team in the right place mentally, so much of the time what happens in conference doesn’t determine what happens in the tournament,” said Lions coach Tobie Helman. “Teams work hard to exploit your weakness. The challenge for us was to be in a good place mentally. Our team was really focused on unity and supporting each other, not letting the things around us break us down.”
Haylee Grossman and Jessica Lund were once again overwhelming at the net, combining for 30 kills.
“It’s really nice to have our front row,” said setter Sabrina De Jong, who finished with 32 assists Wednesday. “Whenever I put the ball up someone is going to be put the ball away and be done with it.”
The Lions made some lineup and tactical adjustments for the Panthers, which may have flustered less confident teams.
“(Coach) wanted us to adjust well to change,” De Jong said. “We are obviously district champions. We go with the flow. Our goal is to stay even and not get too excited.”
Allie Brandsma finished with 17 digs.
Helman praised the Panthers, who “dug out almost every ball,” Helman said.
Lighthouse Christian 3, Carey 0 (25-22, 25-18, 25-13)
Dietrich 3, Richfield 0 (25-14, 25-18, 25-11)
Ryann Perron had 13 assists and six kills while Matigan Bingham had 13 kills and 13 digs for the Blue Devils, who advance in the district tournament with a chance to play Carey for a state tournament berth.