TEAM SPIRIT SHOWN BY TEAM GIVING – The La Conner Varsity Volleyball Team posed after presenting a $700 check, to the Skagit Valley Hospital Foundation at its board meeting Nov 7. The team raised funds for the new Women’s Imaging Center during their Dig Pink night. “I promise that it will be put to good use in the fight against breast cancer, Linda Frizzell, Foundation executive director, wrote in an email. – Photo courtesy of Linda Frizzell
Bensons to sing national anthem at state net tourney
By Bill Reynolds
No matter how intense the action gets, the state volleyball tournament in Yakima will open tomorrow in perfect harmony.
That thanks to a pair of La Conner High seniors.
Twin sisters Joanie and Justine Benson, key members of the defending State 2B champion Lady Braves, will sing the national anthem as part of tournament opening ceremonies at the Sun Dome complex Thursday morning.
The Bensons, who began singing the “Star Spangled Banner” at Puget Sound area sports venues while still in grade school, are often called upon to provide vocals at special events on La Conner campuses and in the community.
Officials at the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) are among their fans.
“I received a call from the WIAA,” La Conner High head volleyball coach Suzanne Marble told the Weekly News on Tuesday, “and they asked Joanie and Justine to sing the national anthem on opening day at 8 a.m.”
A few hours later they will return to the Sun Dome hardwood to help lead No. 1-ranked La Conner in its tourney debut against Willapa Valley.
Marble has often sung the Bensons’ praises both for their play on the court – Justine is the team’s versatile setter, Joanie a top hitter – and shared presence at the microphone.
“Joanie and Justine have the power to silence a crowd,” Marble said after the Bensons’ delivered a stirring rendition at Landy James Gym, “and every time I hear them sing the national anthem I’m truly moved.”
The sisters come by their talent naturally. Their mom, Amy Benson, is often called upon to deliver solos in church. Over the years she has encouraged Joanie and Justine to sing.
Those hearing them for the first time are amazed at how the sisters are so poised and confident performing the “Star-Spangled Banner,” a difficult tune to master given its very wide range and challenging high notes, which have stumped countless soloists and choral groups.
Even celebrity singers have been known to save themselves potential embarrassment by declining invitations to sing the anthem.
Not the Bensons.
They have even sung the “Star-Spangled Banner” just moments before their own La Conner High volleyball matches and basketball games.
“Singing the national anthem flawlessly,” La Conner High head girls’ hoop coach Scott Novak said last year, “and then going out and combining for 30 points is just another day at the office for them.”
Tomorrow will be something of a split shift for the Bensons. They and the La Conner team will begin defense of their State net crown around 1:30 p.m., just over five hours after taking the mic for the “Banner.”
The game plan then will be to deliver yet another command performance.
The Sun Dome in Yakima has a lot of fond memories for the La Conner High volleyball program.
But the defending state champions aren’t looking back this week.
Instead, their focus is on the task ahead, starting with a first round State 2B Tournament date with Willapa Valley (13-3) Thursday at 1:30 p.m.
“We’re looking forward to going into the State Tournament, coming off a good showing at Tri-District,” La Conner head coach Suzanne Marble told the Weekly News on Monday. “I’ve scouted six of the 16 teams in the tournament and we’re going to have some great competition.”
La Conner returns to Yakima ranked No. 1 among State 2B title contenders, having completed an undefeated regular season slate marked by NW2B and Tri-District championships and non-league straight-sets wins over 2A Sehome and Lakewood and 4A Todd Beamer.
Marble made good use of her deep roster during Tri-District action at Landy James Gym last Thursday.
Twelve La Conner players landed on the stat sheet as the hosts swept Auburn Adventist and Darrington by similar 3-0 margins.
The Lady Braves beat Auburn 25-7, 25-9, 25-9. They defeated Darrington 25-10, 25-5, 25-11.
Justine Benson fueled La Conner’s attack against Auburn Adventist with 33 assists. She also recorded 11 digs, a block and served a pair of aces.
Ellie Marble logged a double-double, finishing with a team-high 14 kills and 13 digs. Joanie Benson contributed to La Conner’s dominance at the net with 13 kills to go along with a block and two aces.
Morgan Herrera rang up six kills, an ace, a block, and 12 digs – matching libero Rachel Cram in the latter category. Cram also delivered three aces and two assists. Anna Jane Thulen, Sarah Cook, Maya Masonholder, Katie Watkins and Makayla Herrera combined for seven kills and 19 digs. Nine of those digs were registered by Cook, another seven came from Thulen.
Masonholder, like the Benson twins, twice served up aces.
Aubrie Sloniker chipped in a handful of digs as well for the victors, who advanced to face NW2B rival Darrington for a third time this season.
The outcome of their Tri-District meeting followed the regular season pattern, when La Conner swept the two-game, home-and-away NW2B format.
Marble again led the way up front, producing 11 kills. She also paced La Conner with 14 digs and tied Joanie Benson with three aces.
Both Bensons filled the stat ledger. Joanie added five kills, three blocks and nine digs to her trio of aces. Justine had 25 assists, five digs, a kill, and a block.
Morgan Herrera and Watkins each notched five kills. Watkins also contributed two blocks and a dig while Herrera twice served aces and collected eight digs.
Masonholder, Thulen, Cook and Makayla Herrera teamed for five kills, seven digs, two aces, and two blocks.
Cram was again solid defensively with seven digs. She also contributed to the Lady Braves’ attack by ringing up three service aces.
Emma Keller was equally efficient, posting five digs and an ace.
In addition to having captured the 2018 State title at the Sun Dome, La Conner also experienced success there earlier this season as the lone 2B entry in a 32-team invitational tourney field comprised of 2A-4A schools. La Conner defeated Enumclaw, Cascade, Ellensburg and University High on that trip.
“It was a fantastic tournament for us,” coach Marble said afterward.
La Conner fans are hoping the same can also be said this time around.