WALLA WALLA - In the regular season NWAACC volleyball finale, Walla Walla Community College and Spokane Community College squared off here Wednesday to decide the East Region title.
The Warriors battled back from a 10-4 deficit in the first set to take a 25-18 win. The Sasquatch, the No. 2-ranked team in the NWAACC and the East Region leader, showed their pedigree by winning the next three sets, 25-23, 25-19, and 25-20, to take a 3-1 win. The win earns Spokane the East Region championship with a 13-1 record and sends the Sasquatch into the NWAACC tournament with a 32-5 overall mark.
The win, coupled with a 3-0 Spokane win in the first meeting, completes a Sasquatch season sweep of the Warriors.
"They (Spokane) are just a better team than we are right now," WWCC coach Tim Toon said. "The good news is that we can close the gap. The last time we played them, we were awful and they killed us. They shut our middles (Brittany Dominguez and Libby Kern) down. In this match our middles had 27 (Dominguez) and 16 (Kern) kills, much better. We didn't do it perfect enough (tonight) to beat them, but we were much, much better this time.
"I'm pleased that we've made a step toward competitiveness," he said. "They are the best team in the NWAACC. We're not there, but we only need to beat them once. I'd much rather beat them in the tournament than here."
The Warriors trailed 10-5 in the first set before Dominguez posted three consecutive kills and Taylor Lancaster served up an ace as the Warriors narrowed the gap to 10-9.
Then it was Kern's turn as consecutive kills by Kern got it even at 15-15. At 16-16, Culpepper went to the service line and, with the help of four Sasquatch errors, a Dominguez kill, blocks from Lancaster and Desiree Nielson, Culpepper served the Warriors to a commanding 23-16 lead.
At 24-18, Dominguez finished it with an assist from Kayla Hanus.
The Sasquatch and Warriors battled to a 15-15 tie in set two. Two kills and a block by Spokane's 6-foot-1 middle blocker, Kate Hart, spurred the Sasquatch to a 21-15 lead before the Warriors could get a side out. Dominguez, with two kills, and Lancaster, with two service aces, led the Warriors back to within 24-23, before Jasmine Vivas dropped one over the Warrior front line to even the match with a Sasquatch 25-23 win.
"For spurts of about 10 points, we were the best team in the NWAACC," Toon said of the Warrior runs. "But for the other 15 points, we were a team ranked third, fourth, or fifth, and that's not good enough against this team (Spokane)."
A Kern kill got the Warriors within 12-11 in the third set, but the Sasquatch went on a 13-7 run to take a 2-1 set lead with a 25-18 win.
Set 4 turned on four consecutive blocks from Hart, who finished with 17 blocks on the night, as the Sasquatch improved an 8-5 advantage to a 12-5 advantage, and WWCC couldn't recover. An Emilee Toft block put the set and match point away for Spokane as the Sasquatch won 25-20 to take the match 3-1.
"They blocked the heck out of us," Toon said. "When our ball control broke down, we got predictable with our offense. Our hitters weren't real smart with moving the ball around.
"I'm pleased that we played very good volleyball," Toon added. "The story of the night is that when we were struggling, we only had two or three people playing well and we need six to play well all the time. It shows that if we can clean up a few things, we can play ball."
Sophomores, sporting "Fab Five" t-shirts, finished their Dietrich Dome careers with the 3-1 loss. Dominguez finished with 27 kills, Kern added 16, Hanus handed out 48 assists, Culpepper had 23 digs and was a perfect 22-of-22 from the service line, and rounding out the ‘Fab Five', Christine Deitz posted seven digs.
The Warriors take the No. 2 East seed and a 31-8 mark into an opening round NWAACC tournament match Thursday November 17 at Gresham, Oregon.