Warriors run away from collapsing Columbia Basin

The WWCC volleyball team uses late runs in the first and third sets to sweep aside the Hawks Wednesday.

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Walla Walla Community College's Nikki Long (No. 5) smacks a kill past the arms of Columbia Basin's Jessica Coots (No. 6) and Lilia Najera (No. 10) during the Warriors' sweep of the Hawks Wednesday.

WALLA WALLA — The Walla Walla Community College volleyball team put on a fun run in the Dietrich Dome Wednesday night — two of them.
At least they were fun for the Warriors, who knocked off NWAACC East Region rival Columbia Basin 25-22, 25-18, 25-21 on the strength of two runs late in the first and third sets.


"That’s our pattern: streak and back off, streak and back off," WWCC coach Tim Toon said. "If this team can ever play high quality ball 100 percent of the time, we’re going to be really good."


The Warriors trailed most of the first set. At 21-18 with the momentum in CBC’s favor, Warrior Emily Toft initiated the first WWCC run with clutch blocks on back-to-back plays. CBC followed up with a net violation which drew the score even at 21-21.


A WWCC service error, followed by a Madison Baxter kill, put the score even again at 22-22, but the momentum had clearly shifted, and the Hawks began to self-destruct.


The Hawks finished set one by committing lifts at 23-22 and 24-22, then ended the game with a ball dug into the antenna.


"Those two Toft blocks were big," Toon said. "Oftentimes you look at tipping points in games. And certainly that was the tipping point for the game and the match.


"Emily is a great player, but she kind of moves around in stealth. You don’t realize until you look at the stat sheet all the positives she puts up there," Toon said.


Warrior momentum carried into set two. WWCC sprinted to an early 14-7 lead benefiting from seven unforced CBC errors. The Hawks got no closer than four points the rest of the set as the Warriors took it 25-18.


Set three looked to be more of the same for the Warriors, as they quickly amassed an 8-4 lead. But a string of four consecutive WWCC service errors propped the door back open for the Hawks. CBC capped off an 11-7 run with two monster kills by middle blocker Eva Grassl to tie the match at 15-15.


WWCC responded quickly to the challenge, however, as Madison Baxter and Nikki Long posted kills on consecutive balls to re-up the Warrior lead to two.


The two teams traded kills for the next several points, until CBC finally tied it again at 21-21.


Then the Warriors began their final run.


Ashley Magee started it with a winner to put the Warriors up 22-21. Then CBC’s Kelsey Schalock and Amber Durand sent their next two attacks long to bring the contest to match point.


Magee finished the match on the next ball with an ace that hit the floor untouched in the center of the Hawks’ defense.


"A medium swing gets behind us (Magee’s kill) and then the girls think ‘Oh my gosh, here we go again,’" CBC coach John Patrick said. "The team kind of feeds on that and they got their heads down a little bit. Then that last ball comes over and we were standing flat footed."


Long led the Warriors with eight kills. Magee, Toft, and Cassie Phippen all finished with seven, and Baxter slammed home another six.


"The key is balance," Toon said. "Emily and Nikki and Ashley and Cassie and Madison all had six or more kills. That kind of balance is difficult for another team to defend.


Warrior Megan Tompkins led all players with 23 digs. Sharsti Goff and Sarah McLean had 19 and 17 assists, respectively.


The Hawks were led by Amber Durand’s nine kills and 13 digs. Eva Grassl added eight kills and six blocks. Brittany Weiand led CBC in assists with 21.


Toon noted the importance of the Warrior win beyond beating a neighboring rival.


"We’ve won three big conference games in a row," said Toon. "Losing this match would have put us in sixth place. Winning this match puts us in fourth and in the playoffs (if the season ended today). We still have half a conference season to go, but I like 4-3 a whole lot better than 3-4."


WWCC improved to 14-9 on the season. CBC dropped to 13-9 and 3-3 in region play.


The Warriors take a break from regional play, with a revenge match Monday night against crosstown foe Walla Walla University in the Dietrich Dome. Last week, the Wolves downed the Warriors 3-0 in College Place.


Next Wednesday, the Warriors resume regional competition with a visit to second place Blue Mountain.

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