WALLA WALLA — Middle blocker Eva Grassl and outside hitter Amber Durand ripped 24 kills apiece Monday night as Columbia Basin rallied from a pair of one-game deficits to post a 21-25, 25-22, 25-27, 25-22, 15-4 victory over Walla Walla Community College in an NWAACC volleyball playoff match in the Dietrich Dome.
The win improved CBC’s record to 24-16 and earned it the Eastern Region’s No. 4 seed going into the NWAACC Championships which begin Thursday at Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham, Ore.
WWCC’s season ended with a mark of 23-18 and ended the program’s run of consecutive appearances in the conference tournament at nine.
"It’s a bummer to not make the NWAACC tournament," Walla Walla coach Tim Toon said afterward. "The bottom line was that four teams were better than us in the tough East Region.
"We committed the whole army to slow them (Grassl and Durand) down, but we couldn’t control them in the end," Toon said.
The Warriors battled back from a 14-8 deficit to take game one. Ashley Magee, who tied Grassl and Durand for match honors with 24 kills, registered Walla Walla’s last three points of the set — with two kills and a block — as part of a game-ending 9-2 run.
"Ashley was a kill machine at the net," Toon said of Magee, who also had four blocks. "She put down a lot of tough balls at crunch time."
WWCC held leads of 9-3 and 20-16 in the second game before falling. Ironically, the Hawks duplicated the Warriors’ game-one effort by ending set two with a 9-2 spurt. Durand recorded back-to-back kills to close out the game.
Walla Walla trailed game three 24-22 before tying the score at 24-24 on a Magee kill. Following an exchange of points, Magee put down a pair of kills in succession to send the Warriors into game four with a one-set advantage.
CBC evened the match at two games apiece by scoring five of the last six points of set No. 4. The Hawks harnessed the momentum and claimed the deciding game going away.
"The scores in the first four sets speak for themselves," Toon said. "It was a battle. Unfortunately, the passive demons popped out in the fifth set. We’ve seen this before. It’s too bad we had to end the season like that."
Other statistical standouts for the Warriors were Nikki Long with 15 kills, Megan Tompkins with 26 digs, Sarah McLean with 53 assists and 21 digs, Corrine Holbrook with 12 kills and eight blocks, Madison Baxter with 11 kills, and Sharsti Goff and Carley Miller with 21 and 17 digs, respectively.
"Nikki had one of our best hitting performances of the season," Toon said. "Megan played a tough back row and Sarah was a true warrior at the net and in the back row.
"We were using a small lineup that specialized in ball control," Toon said. "Megan and Sharsti were outstanding in serve receive, triggering a potent offense."
Though the Warriors came up short in their quest for the postseason, Toon put the disappointment aside and expressed optimism about the future.
"We have a lot of solid freshman coming back," Toon said. "We’ll address our areas of need in the recruiting process and expect to be one of the elite teams in the NWAACC next year."