PENDLETON — Winners can make the mistakes of losers but sometimes still sneak out a victory.
That was head coach Dave Baty’s diagnosis after his Blue Mountain Timberwolves (25-10, 9-2 NWAACC) narrowly edged the visiting team from Yakima Valley (19-9, 6-5 NWAACC) in five sets Wednesday. Scores were 25-21, 25-23, 18-25, 20-25 and 15-10, but the losing Yakima Valley amassed more total points, digs and successful serves, and hit for a better percentage.
“There was really no point in (Wednesday’s) match where we were playing expected volleyball,” Baty said. “I don’t have the numbers for our unforced errors but we have got to have had a bucket full.
“We played cleaner in the final game than they did,” he added. “That’s the reason we won, we played cleaner. And it’s the first game we played cleaner all night.”
The Timberwolves had 31 errors compared to 52 kills overall.
Blue Mountain’s luck ran out in the third set as the Yaks began to climb back into the match. The Timberwolves had as many kills in the set as errors. The trend continued in the fourth.
The snowball of Yak momentum hit some warm weather in the fifth, though, as the home team rallied to a 9-2 lead behind some timely hitting and a pair of aces from Clair Tolbert — her only two of the night. On a night where neither team hit much better than 10 percent, the final point to give Blue Mountain the victory fittingly came on a Yakima Valley serve into the net.
“It’s always kind of an bummer to have it end on a service error because you always want to go out with a bang, but it’s a win,” said Blue Mountain middle hitter Becky Kershner. “We can go with that.”
Kershner led the team in kills with 17 pounding spikes, but her coach said the 6-foot-5 sophomore can continue to improve.
“There’s not a girl on that Yakima team that’s over 5-10. Becky is 6-5,” Baty said. “She should be eating lunch here, she should be just running the show and yet she’s not. And that’s a technique issue that she has in how she attacks the ball and that comes back to me (as coach).”
Tori Farias led all hitters with 19 kills on the Yakima Valley side.
The Timberwolves have three conference games left this season and Baty said they’ll need severe improvement to come away with three wins.
“Of our four matches left, I thought that this would be the easiest and we came out here and played like we were playing in some Fourth of July picnic,” Baty said.
Blue Mountain will play the College of Southern Idaho to start tournament play at the Dorian Harris Classic in Gresham on Saturday before resuming conference games at Wenatchee Valley (9-16, 3-7 NWAACC) the next Tuesday.