WALLA WALLA - Junior middle Torri Crawford smashed 16 kills and helped spark the Blue Devils to a 10-1 run that cemented a 26-24 comeback fourth-set victory over visiting Eisenhower in the first round of the Columbia Basin Big Nine 4A District volleyball tournament Thursday night.
"She (Crawford) gives us a lot of offense," Wa-Hi coach Audra Cummings said. "When we get a kill, we almost always get the next point because we have the momentum, she gives us a lot of momentum and is a huge factor for us in the front court. When my setters can get her in a rhythm it's important and we do rely on her."
With the victory, Wa-Hi advances to take on CBBN 4A champions Richland in the second round of the tournament at noon Saturday. Should the Devils beat the Bombers, they will be guaranteed a trip to the regional tournament and will play additional matches to determine seeding. Should the Blue Devils fall to Richland, Wa-Hi falls to the loser's bracket where it must win one more match before a final match to determine whether they take the No. 2 or 3 seed to the regional tournament.
Wa-Hi dominated sets one and two much as they had done when the Blue Devils swept the Cadets twice earlier in the season, including a 3-0 victory Oct. 21. They had all the reason to suspect the Cadets would fold, but this time, the visitors did not surrender easily.
With the season on the line in set three, Eisenhower simply outplayed the Blue Devils, trading shots until they were tied at 16-all. From there, junior hitter Brooke Brown and senior hitter Shelby Hein took over and helped the Cadets take a set from Wa-Hi for the fist time this season, 25-20.
"I don't know if we kind of underestimated them," Wa-Hi coach Audra Cummings said. "They definitely stepped it up from where they were a week ago and I think that caught the girls off guard and it was like, ‘Oh.'
"They (Wa-Hi) kind of had a hard time adjusting and they just kind of sucked into themselves," she said. "Their body language was hard to watch at times."
Brown notched 19 kills, 11 digs and a block in the loss. Hein contributed six kills, five digs three aces and three blocks.
Eisenhower carried momentum into the fourth set and, after trading points to 7-all, threatened to run away with a 23-13 lead.
But just as it seemed like the Cadets might force a fifth set, Wa-Hi's starting lineup rotated back on the court and started making noise. What had been a somber, quiet crowd roared to a crescendo as the Blue Devils outscored Eisenhower 10-1 to make the improbable comeback.
Cummings said getting the right players on the court and getting the crowd back into the game were both factors in the rally.
"Devyn Humphreys, getting back up at the line at game point and going after it one after another, that was huge," Cummings said. "And Torri (Crawford), getting Torri back into the front court, that was the right rotation to be in, I guess. That's our starting rotation, so to get that at game point was pretty fortunate for us, honestly."
Following an ace from Eisenhower's Mikel Sydney to put the Cadets up 23-14, Wa-Hi went on a tear. The scorecard went like this: Humphreys launched a kill, finding a gap in Ike's formation; Chantelle Zamora recorded a kill, then an ace; Franny Eacker-Rude made a diving pancake-dig to allow the Blue Devils to volley, and the Cadets committed an unforced error, sailing a kill attempt past the service line; another Humphreys kill and then a block put the Devils at 19-23.
Eisenhower managed to get another point, but Kennedy Snider recorded a kill to give Wa-Hi service. Down 24-20, the pressure was on.
Then, Crawford went on a three-point tear, scoring two blocks and then a kill and bringing the crowd to its feet.
Snider tied the game at 24-all with another kill. An error on Eisenhower's part gave Wa-Hi a 25-24 advantage.
Facing a 25-24 set-point, Wa-Hi's Humphreys served up an ace to end the match.
Cummings needed a few moments to collect herself before she could talk to reporters after the comeback, saying her blood was boiling.
Senior setter Brogan Watson led the Devils with 18 assists in the victory.
Libero Tianna Cummings had 12 digs on the night, followed by Zamora with 10 digs and five kills. Megan Thompson had 10 digs and Eacker-Rude had 11 assists and nine digs.
Humphreys had three digs and four kills, Lexie Mahan had six kills and Madeline Jacobson tallied four digs.