GRESHAM — Only one match remains between Blue Mountain Community College and another NWAACC volleyball championship.
The Timberwolves showed no evidence of a hangover from Friday night’s draining five-set thriller with Mt. Hood Community College, dispatching Spokane on Saturday quickly to earn a spot in the championship. BMCC (42-4) dominated, especially in the middle section of the match, and left the Sasquatch in the dust 25-19, 25-11, 25-19.
Spokane (30-9), the third-place team out of the NWAACC’s East Region, has now fallen in all three meetings against East winners Blue Mountain, but none the way the semifinal went. This deep into the season-ending tournament and the Timberwolves anticipated another fight for their lives
“We were expecting this team to come out on us and go crazy like Mt. Hood did,” BMCC middle blocker Crystal Schmidt said. “I guess expect the unexpected.”
To see Blue Mountain anywhere but the final of the NWAACC tournament would have been the true unexpected occurrence. The Timberwolves were a definitive No. 1 seed heading into the bracket, having won 122 games to 17 losses this season.
The final scores reflected that, but half way through the first set neither team was rising above the other. At 9-9, the semifinal match looked headed for another memorable battle like the one the night before. But six straight points for BMCC started a trend that would last for the next two sets: big Blue Mountain kills and sloppy Spokane errors.
After the T-Wolves pulled away to win the first set 25-19, the Sasquatch began a streak of clumsy points that played the team right out of the match. The second set transformed into a comedy of errors on the Spokane side of the net. BMCC built a swift 12-3 lead behind eight Sasquatch hitting errors.
Spokane would total 10 in the set.
The mounting errors allowed BMCC to just sit back and count their points. And when they had opportunities for offense, the Blue Mountain hitters struck.
“Just staying smart while we’re hitting and not letting up when we had a lead,” said Kensey Mix, BMCC’s co-leader in kills with eight while swinging at a .636 percent clip. “We just kept on pushing.”
The third set started much the same way with Spokane looking up at a 19-10 deficit, seven errors helping excavate that hole. Then the Sasquatch showed some life, bringing the score to within four points at 22-18. But the pit was too deep.
Still, Blue Mountain coach Dave Baty was relieved his team could wrap things up in three sets.
“It can go the other direction just as easy. We got to 19 and then I think I said a couple of the wrong things at a timeout,” Baty said. “They walked back out there and kind of took their foot of the gas and that was my fault. I basically told them, “Look at the scoreboard”, and that was a big mistake. We’re fortunate we got away from it.
“There’s nothing in the world that says they couldn’t have popped a Game 5 on us if they fight back and win that game and start crawling out of the hole.”
Blue Mountain only hit .128 percent in the third game — its lowest of the match by half — but Spokane would have needed to move worlds to compete and win two more sets with the pace it was moving. Following a -.217 hitting set in the second, the Sasquatch’s big improvement still had them at only .034 in the third.
But with a few of the team’s better hitters ice-age cold, Spokane’s offense was almost unrecognizable compared to the unit that racked up 30 wins this season.
“We got a couple players that hit negative for us that haven’t done that all year,” Spokane coach Jenni Hull said. “So that was definitely a difference maker for us.”
Kate Hart led the Sasquatch with 9 kills while hitting .261, but three major players in Spokane’s attack were well below zero. Amanda Youngers, Malea Webb and Annie Arnzen combined for three kills and 14 errors.
Blue Mountain’s Claire Tolbert and Kassi Howarth also had eight kills for the match each and Kendra De Hoog added seven. Schmidt chipped in five more.
Setter Robyn Schirmer had another match above 10 sets game with 35 total.
The loss was a blow to Spokane’s title hopes but doesn’t end their season. The Sasquatch faced Walla Walla Saturday evening for a spot in the championship bout on Sunday at 3 p.m. The Sasquatch downed the Warriors 25-16, 20-25, 15-12 to regain some momentum.
Of the top three teams, all were East Region combatants.
Defending champions Mt. Hood, which pushed Blue Mountain so heartedly on Friday, lost in a second straight match to fall out of the double-elimination tournament Saturday. Walla Walla dropped the Saints 25-17, 21-25, 15-13 to keep its own season alive before the Spokane loss.