GRESHAM — Two sets, two victories for Blue Mountain Community College. Friday’s quarterfinal match at the NWAACC volleyball tournament was shaping up like so many Timberwolves contests before it this season.
But Mt. Hood refused to play by the script that BMCC has remade over and over again on its way to an undefeated East Region title. After going down 25-21, 25-21 to open the match at Mt. Hood Community College, the Saints found their spirit for 25-17 and 25-23 victories to knot things up.
But even with BMCC on the ropes, the Timberwolves showed their fangs behind a huge set from hitter Kendra De Hoog to hang on for a 15-11 fifth-set win that clinched the match. Blue Mountain will advance to the semifinals today at 1:30 p.m.
De Hoog slammed home four of her seven total kills in the set, including two as the T-Wolves (41-4) built a 5-0 lead against the Saints (31-10) on their home floor.
“We played our hearts out in the fifth game and we pushed and pushed as hard as we could,” De Hoog said.
Coach Dave Baty was a little less candid about it.
“She saved my butt,” he said smiling, with an arm around the shoulders of his outside hitter.
Friday marked only the second occasion that BMCC was taken to a fifth set in a dreamscape season for the Pendleton squad. Before the quarterfinal match, the T-Wolves had only lost 15 sets on the year and none as badly as the 25-17 score that Mt. Hood hung on them in the third game of the comeback.
The other five-setter, against Highline in September, came at a tournament in Green River and involved Blue Mountain playing the part of the hill climbers. The Timberwolves lost the first two before rallying for the victory.
Despite that experience in the team’s back pocket, setter Robyn Schirmer said BMCC is still fairly unfamiliar with the kind of match it faced Friday — namely a very competitive one down to the final point.
“It was just a little bit (difficult) but at the same time we saw it as having fun just because the fact that we haven’t had adversity before,” Schirmer said of the team that has lost only two matches on the court this season, none to NWAACC opponents. “It was definitely a different scene for us and we had to adjust. But we adjusted greatly.”
BMCC’s other two losses came by forfeit for suiting an ineligible player.
Schirmer, who finished with 51 assists, said when BMCC was stumbling it was because of the blocks that Mt. Hood was throwing up on the other side of the net. The Saints’ Charlene Manning had six on her own during the comeback attempt.
While BMCC struggled to find the other side of the net, hitting only .125 for the match in one of its lowest outputs this season, Tori Kemper was having a monstrous match for Mt. Hood. The freshman outside hitter finished with 31 kills, more than half of her team’s total, an a match-high by 17.
Blue Mountain will face Spokane (30-9) today for a spot in the semifinal after the Sasquatch knocked off Walla Walla in the other match Friday night. That contest wrapped up in four sets and both teams gathered around the remaining game’s court, cheering for their East Region foe BMCC in a sign of solidarity.
Things won’t be so friendly today, though.
“Having the East side support the East side is definitely great,” Schirmer said. “But when we’re across the net from each other we’re no longer sisters, you know we’re enemies.”
Taking down Mt. Hood was one of the biggest imminent obstacles that Blue Mountain knew was coming at the NWAACC tournament, coach Baty said. The Saints won this tournament last season and facing them in their house would provide the kind of challenge that Blue Mountain saw but a few times in the regular season.
“You know as long as it’s here, you have to beat them here,” Baty said. “You don’t try to avoid that, you just have to embrace it. This is the court that they practice on, we know that, and you just have to come out and give it your everything.”
For Mt. Hood, the road to the NWAACC finals got a little more treacherous with the loss. The Saints will get the winner of Highline and Tacoma today in a match immediately following that initial contest.
Mt. Hood is out of faults though in the double-elimination tournament. But coach Chelsie Speer knows her team is still a team to be reckoned with even after the emotional loss Friday.
Don’t count them out, she said.
“Our girls know that they’ve got something special and there’s no reason to give up right now,” she said.
Other major contributors in Blue Mountain’s quarterfinal victory included Crystal Schmidt and her 10 kills, Kensey Mix (eight kills, .333 hitting percentage) and Kassie Howarth (14 kills). On defense, Piper Cantrell dug 30 balls and Schmidt and De Hoog each teamed up for five blocks.
Earlier in the day, BMCC beat Green River in a more conventional Timberwolves match. Blue Mountain took that one in straight sets 25-16, 25-14, 25-18 behind a .383 team hitting percentage, 12 kills from Claire Tolbert and 11 more from Howarth.
Contact AJ Mazzolini at email@example.com or 541-966-0839.