WALLA WALLA — After taking the second and third sets, the Walla Walla High School volleyball team dropped the following two sets to lose to Richland in Mid-Columbia Conference play in the Blue Devil gym Tuesday night.
The Bombers clinched the match with a 15-7 win in the fifth set, as Wa-Hi never led during the set. After Wa-Hi won the second set, 25-18, and the third set, 25-22, head coach Don Hepker said his team could not close out Richland.
“It’s so frustrating,” Hepker said. “We came out on fire and then lost our passion in sets four and five. We were playing great ball up until then, but defensively we became hesitant.”
Richland ran away from the Blue Devils in the fourth set, as missed serves proved to be costly. The Bombers clinched the set by a score of 25-14, as Hepker said the Blue Devils missed more serves in the fourth set than they had in the entire match up to that point.
“Serving definitely led the way,” Hepker said. “That just kind of transitioned into being a little lazy on defense and once that happens, then the offense kind of fell apart afterwards. One just led into the other.”
The Blue Devils could not sustain the momentum from a nearly flawless third set. After jumping out to a 7-3 lead, Wa-Hi was cruising. With a 20-12 lead, the Bombers came back to make it close, but two Madi Doepker kills sealed a 25-22 victory.
Wa-Hi, who was missing outside hitter Reece Carman because of a wrist injury, rode a balanced attack to a win in the third set.
“I couldn’t ask for anything more,” Hepker said. “We lost Reece (Carman) in yesterday’s match (against Kennewick). The team rallied together and played like we were missing one of our stars. It’s one of the best (sets) we’ve looked all year. But we just couldn’t hold it.”
Doepker finished the match with 28 kills, 23 digs and two aces for the Blue Devils.
With Carman out of the game, Wa-Hi’s offense flowed through Doepker.
“We played her through the back row so we could get a little more offense when she wasn’t out of the front row,” Hepker said. “She definitely got more swings than usual, but I don’t want her to feel like she needs to do more, because as soon as you do, you start making errors.”
Jaime Quaresma and Kat Tonhdavong were tasked to help fill the void left by Carman. The duo combined for 15 kills, as Hepker took notice.
“Jaime Quaresma — this is the best match she has ever had that I’ve seen,” Hepker said. “She was on fire. Through the first three sets, she picked up the slack from missing Reece.”
Katie Greene finished with 27 assists and 14 digs, and Lily Kaminsky added 13 assists. Jacie McDaniels went 14-of-15 serving with 17 digs.
Hepker credited the back line defense of McDaniels, Kassidy Willard and Amelia Hemenway for their effort during the match.
“Defensively, early on, Kassidy, Amelia and Jacie — they all did a phenomenal job in the back row,” Hepker said. “Getting the digs, being in the right spot. Even if the other team made a mistake, they were there ready to play the ball if it would have been in.”
Wa-Hi faces Pasco Tuesday as the district tournament begins.