COLLEGE PLACE — Led by 22 kills split evenly between junior Amy Arnzen and senior Megan Gregg, Walla Walla Valley defeated Waitsburg-Prescott in four sets, 25-23, 18-25, 25-18 and 25-18, Thursday night in the Knights’ Southeast 2B opener.
Despite it being just their second match of the season, Walla Walla Valley Academy proved to be the more polished of the two teams as W-P consistently struggled with poor communication.
“Whether it was defense calling for the ball or the setter, I thought it was too quiet,” W-P coach Angie Potts said. “If we can get that part of it going, then we can get the offense going and that will help the defense as well.”
Potts said the lack of chatter stemmed from a lack of confidence, with players unsure of who should go after a dig or hit.
“I actually thought we did a better job then we’ve been doing in the last couple weeks getting the ball to where the setter needs it,” Potts said. “I thought we struggled with communication — it was still too quiet.”
Knights coach Scott Schafer was happy with the win, but still thought there were some things the Knights could work on, primarily the reliance on Arnzen and Gregg for their offense.
“As the season goes forward, I think my middles can do better, too,” Schafer said. “We just have to get them involved a little more, and that’s passing too. We just have to be a little cleaner with our passes and digs to get them the ball.
“Like a lot of high school teams, we rely on our outside hitters a lot,” Schafer said, “so that’s where we’re at, I guess.”
Despite having the more explosive offense, WWVA was never able to completely pull away from W-P due to inconsistent serving.
“I thought there were some serves that we gave away that we shouldn’t have given away, but that’s always a battle,” Schafer said. “I think we got smarter as we went along and were able to, when we needed a point, make sure we got it in there. You want the kids to be aggressive, but you also want them to be able to just get the ball over the net in pressure situations.”
“For us, it was a lot better,” Potts said of W-P’s service. “In our first matches, we were right at 11 missed serves. Tonight we were at six or seven. We’re actually bringing that down. I don’t think we missed key serves that really cost us momentum, I just think it was a matter of missed hits or not getting the free ball over. That was a big concern more than the serving was.”
Walla Walla’s Caroline Larson proved instrumental in the first-set win, a game in which neither team was able to hold a lead, laying down a kill to break a 23-all deadlock and serving up an ace to set up a game point.
Larson finished the night with a pair of blocks, as well.
The Knights (2-0) scored the winning point only after a diving dig attempt by W-P’s Rhiannon Chapman fell just short.
Waitsburg-Prescott (4-4, 0-2 SE2B) opened a 10-6 lead early in the second set, which ballooned to a nine-point, 20-11 lead before WWVA regained its rhythm. The Knights went on a 7-3 run to put the score at 23-18, but Madison Wagner, who had served up two aces in the rally, lofted a serve into the net to give W-P its 24th point before W-P picked up its final point to win the set and even the match at 1-1.
“I was suprised we fell apart so bad in that second set,” Schafer said. “But in the past it seemed like you would lose and it would take forever to recover. Tonight, we were able to come back and regain our composure.”
Waitsburg-Prescott struggled to begin the third match and, on the power of a pair of aces for Arnzen and a kill from Gregg, the Knights opened a 6-1 lead to start the match.
That lead expanded to 20-10, then 21-11 as W-P struggled to set up its offense. This time, however, it was WWVA holding off a late rally as W-P went on a 7-2 rally before the Knights were able to pick up the winning points.
The fourth and decisive set proved a touch-and-go affair, with the teams tied at 14 after six lead changes and seven ties. Walla Walla began to pull away at that point, however, with three aces from Gregg and a kill from Larson helping to propel the Knights to game point at 24-18.
The match ended emphatically, with Gregg scoring the winning kill.
Gregg, a senior transfer from Wa-Hi who did not play last season, finished with the three aces in addition to her 11 kills and was 13-for-14 from the stripe.
Arnzen finished with a pair of aces and was 16-for-21 in service.
Junior setter Rylee Sutton proved key in running the offense with 25 assists on the night.
Sophomore middle hitter Madison Wagner picked up two blocks in the match and Helena Brown had three digs.
Rhiannon Chapman, a senior outside hitter, led the way for Waitsburg-Prescott defensively, with 21 digs and a pair of aces on 11-of-12 serving.
Senior Krystal Harris had a balanced night, hitting for 14 kills and picking up 20 digs while going 15-for-15 from the line.
Samantha Fedderson, a sophomore, contributed five kills, 22 digs and finished 11-for-12 in service.
Analise Salazar had 17 assists, and Stacia Deal went 11-for-12 at the stripe.
The Knights next visit crosstown rival DeSales Tuesday at 6 p.m.
Waitsburg-Prescott has a week off before facing Dayton Thursday at 6 p.m.