WALLA WALLA - Wa-Hi's volleyball team hung with the Big Nine's top dog for one set and bested them for one frame Thursday night at home, but Richland's talent proved too much for the Blue Devils to handle in a 25-11, 20-25, 25-15, 25-16 contest.
Wa-Hi (13-13, 4-4) came out strong, but a 9-0 Richland (19-1, 7-0) run pushed the spread to 17-6 to put the first frame out of reach. However, the Blue Devils rallied to control the second set, closing out the victory on a block from outside hitter Sydney Christensen.
"We've talked a lot about avoiding runs," said Wa-Hi head coach Audra Cummings. "They got on that big one in the first set, but I was really proud to see our girls stay positive and take the next set from one of the best teams in the state."
Richland bounced back to take the third set in large part due to a strong service game paced by setter Lauren Joseph and some powerful kills from 6-foot-1 outside hitter Chelsey Bettinson, closing out Wa-Hi on an unforced error at the net.
"We played a lot better tonight than we did the first time we played this team," Cummings said. "We're a younger team with a lot of juniors, and I think we were intimidated the first time played them. Tonight we played more like we had nothing to lose, which is true because they're the team with the perfect record."
The final set was much like the third with the Bombers getting a block on the last play of the night to close out the Blue Devils 25-16.
"Our girls played like a team tonight," Cummings said. "We showed a lot of growth on the court, and we supported each other, even when we were down."
Wa-Hi was led by 10 assists from setter Franny Eacker-Rude, nine digs from libero Tianna Cummings and seven digs from Megan Thompson. Setter Brogan Watson added 13 assists and three blocks, while outside hitter Lexie Mahan also had six digs and Christensen finished with five blocks and eight kills.
"A lot of our players were very aggressive, which we have also been working on," Cummings said. "We didn't run away from them."
Up next for Wa-Hi is a trip to Spokane over the weekend for the 64-team Crossover Classic Tournament, which starts today.
"Some of the best teams in the state are going to be there so if we can do well in pool play we'll get a chance to test ourselves against some of the most talented teams around," Cummings said. "It's a great opportunity for us if we can take advantage of it."