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As the Central Kitsap girls volleyball team faced the end of its season last weekend against Capital, a team it had defeated a week earlier for the Narrows League title, the look of disappointment and disheartenment slowly crept across the faces of both CK players and fans. Down 22-13, it looked pretty bleak for CK. They didnt give up, but would fall 25-15 in the set, sending them packing without the one thing they came for - a return ticket to state.
But one of the players that never let down until the match was said and done came as no surprise. And while CK senior Lindsey Fryer joined her teammates in being saddened by the loss, she stayed true to her positive mentality and attitude, focusing not on what the team hadnt achieved, but what it had.
This (loss) is difficult because its the best team Ive played on since Ive been here, Fryer said. Chemistry wise, this was the best team. All of us are really close.
Focussing on the positives, Fryer avoids talking extensively on the Capital loss. Rather, she focuses on the Narrows League Championship, and the strong core of returners this team will have next year.
I definitely think theyll be first or second in the league (next year), Fryer said. I dont see how they could not be. So I think theyll do pretty good. Theyve got some good talent.
But that is what CK has come to expect from the two-time Narrows League Most Valuable Player. Fryer, who repeated as MVP this season, could easily join the throng of athletes that let their success go to their heads. But she enjoys sharing the love, preferring to hoard the attention of defenders rather than awards and recognition.
I feel honored that people recognize me as one of the most valuable players, Fryer said. I just think I couldnt get to where I am now without my teammates. I cant get a good hit without a good pass.
As for the double-teaming that has come with her success, Fryer said that just makes her want to do better.
Once I know theyre trying to hinder my game, I just work harder to not let them shut me down, Fryer said. You just have to be mentally tough.
CK coach Gordy Bushaw said her leadership qualities will be missed, possibly more than her big-time kills.
Well certainly miss having her as a go-to hitter, Bushaw said. Some other skill-wise things well miss is shes probably our best serve-receive passer. Well also miss her defense. But apart from all that, shes been so encouraging. She wants everyone else to be better.
When watching Fryer play, its easy to see her desire for the sport. One second, shell be soaring above the net, raining shots into opponents territory. The next, shell be teaming up for a block. Next, shes rolling over backwards recovering from the unlikely dig she just hustled to. And while her on-court ambition amazes, Bushaw said Fryer simply doesnt know how to play the game any other way.
(Coaching Lindsey) has been great fun, Bushaw said. Shes a really hard working kid, just a good attitude in practice all the time. Shes a great leader. Shes obviously a great player and a lot of that comes from her hard work.
Fryer, who also plays at the club level for Puget Sound Volleyball in Fife, hasnt decided on a college yet, but has visited Western Washington University in Bellingham and will be visiting Concordia University in Oregon. She said she has also received interest from Northwest Nazarene and Washington State University.
In deciding, Fryer said shell be factoring in more than just volleyball. Fryer is currently enrolled in two advanced placement classes (biology and statistics) and has excelled as a student at CK. She said academics will play into her decision more than anything else.
Im not that stressed out about it yet, Fryer said. Its just a matter of making my decision. I dont see myself at a really big school. I want smaller classes, a more personal relationship with my professors.
Fryer said her relationship with her current teachers has helped her to balance her time between school and sports.
Since school volleyball is over with, its a little bit easier, she said. But a lot of the teachers are really understanding, so that helps.
No matter where Fryer ends up, Bushaw said he expects she will be successful.
The fact that she works so hard consistently, wherever she ends up going, it is going to be a level above, Bushaw said. There are going to be players at or above her level and it is going to be an adjustment. I think what will help her most is she has good fundamentals. Shes very willing to work on those and work on her weaknesses. That will bode well for her.
Fryer got her start through family connections, watching her cousin Lisa, and sister Allison, play while growing up. According to both her and her mom, Candy, they were her largest influences. Lisa played at the University of North Carolina and Allison played for Olympic before heading to Northwest College in Kirkland.
Lindsey said at the time she was introduced, she was playing soccer, but turned to volleyball for the faster pace.
It was exciting to watch, lots of action, Fryer said. (Lisa), she came to the Gig Harbor game (Oct. 20). She came down behind the bench and was like, Lindsey, tip behind the middle block. Thats kind of nice, to have someone whos been in the same shoes.
She also has family support from her parents. Her dad Tim is the CK boys basketball coach.
Since my dad has coached (basketball) for so many years, he can really relate to my situations, she said. He notices when Im struggling. He can always give me little bits of advice here and there.
Candy agreed, saying Lindsey tends to listen to dad when it comes to the game.
Its one thing for me to support her and tell her what she needs to do, Candy said. But when her dad has so much experience coaching, she takes it more to heart. I can support her emotionally, but dad can sit down and talk with her about technique.
Candy said Lindsey has also gotten a push from her twin brother Neil, who plays basketball for CK.
Theyre very close, but he knows how to get under her skin, Candy said. Hell ride her a little bit and has been a big part in her competitiveness.
But another large influence, as anyone would expect, has been Bushaw. Lindsey said he is one of the reasons she is happiest about attending CK.
Hes just such a good guy, Fryer said. I was really glad to come from Klahowya. I was really glad to have him as my coach.
Fryer said the relationship between herself and Bushaw has grown so that she can also help the team with her knowledge of the sport.
I think hes kind of put me in different situations, she said. Hes let me makes some changes on the court. Ive always been one to speak up.
Bushaw agreed, saying her leadership amongst her teammates has proven invaluable to the team.
She always pushes (the other kids), Bushaw said. Not just by example, but by encouraging them. Shes been really great with the JV kids too.
Throughout the season, Bushaw said he has run an in-practice two-on-two tournament, pairing his players randomly with one another. He said this has allowed him to watch Fryer interact with her teammates individually.
She plays just as hard in those games no matter who shes with or against, Bushaw said. She really encourages the kids that are no where near the skill level she is at.
Bushaw said his most memorable moment coaching Lindsey came at last years district tournament. Coincidentally, the same games were Fryers personal favorite memory.
I think last year when we beat Bellarmine to go to state (is my most memorable moment), Fryer said. They beat us pretty bad in the preseason, so to come out and do that, that was nice. We put them in their place a little bit.
Bushaw finished with three moments, but for the same reason he remembers the trip to state.
I think the single most memorable moment was at districts last year when she just dominated the games against Puyallup and Bellarmine and sent us to state, Bushaw said. This year, it was the way she played against Capital in the Narrows League tournament. She just didnt give up down 2-1 and she didnt let others give up. That was right on level with districts. And in the fourth game last weekend against Capital. Lindsey was the only one that never got her head down and never stopped making plays until the last point fell.
Candy said this years district tournament will probably squeak ahead as her proudest memory of Lindsey.
As a mom, I was pretty proud of her at districts, Candy said. But I can remember the first time she got a first block and thee look on her face. Oh my gosh, I can do this. But that last match at districts, they way she stuck with it when they were down. Id have to say that was the proudest.
Fryer said she will miss the team, again citing the closeness that has developed over her seasons at CK.
Its an honor to play with girls who can step up when they need to, Fryer said. It also shows our desire to win, and I hate losing.
As for Bushaw, he said CK may have just seen its best volleyball player ever.
Shes a great player, he said. Certainly our best over the last three years. Possibly our best ever. Shes just a nice kid to have on the team, even if she wasnt as good.