MOSES LAKE — Hailey Miller chased a ball to within a few steps of the doors leading to the lobby, making a diving save to keep it alive. Libero Laurissa Kisler hurried over to send the ball back over the net during Wednesday’s NWAC volleyball match at DeVries Activity Center.
It’s going to take that kind of diving, digging, scraping kind of effort if the Vikings (0-7) want to change the culture to a program that won just one match a year ago. Big Bend took that first step, winning the first game against the Chokers (2-11), before losing their home opener in four games, 13-25, 25-20, 25-16, 25-15.
The 25-13 victory in the first game didn’t translate into a victory over Grays Harbor from the NWAC West, but it was a little positive affirmation for a team taking baby steps with six freshmen on its 10-member roster.
“Winning that first game was huge for us. It’s definitely a building block,” said 5-foot-11 outside hitter Madison Powers from Boulder, Mont. “Coming off that season from hell last year (1-30), it’s good to know what it feels like moving forward.”
The Vikings held leads of 5-0, 7-1 and 19-4, rolling up a 25-13 opener to set the tone. But it didn’t hold and Grays Harbor, which lost in five games to Wenatchee Valley earlier in the night, gained momentum, erasing a 20-15 deficit with 10 consecutive points to tie the match at one game apiece, 25-20.
That momentum swing was enough to turn the tide for the Chokers, who finished the match with six players with 10 kills or more. Brooke Spoor and Sara Caraveo had 14 kills apiece for the Chokers.
Teila Kapihe spread the ball around for Grays Harbor, finishing with 43 assists on a 48-kill night. Powers finished with six kills and five blocks to lead the Vikings.
“I told the girls tonight, the first game is the biggest level jump I’ve seen so far. If we played that same way, with the same intensity, at the Fall Festival two weeks ago, our record is completely different,” said first-year coach Mike DeHoog. “Our measure of success is not always going to be the scoreboard.
“Tonight is the first time I’ve seen that level of execution. Tonight was a huge step.”
The Vikings closed to 12-11 on Ana Zuniga-NaVarro’s service in the third game. The 5-3 defensive specialist from Ephrata had an ace. Natalie Yergensen, one of four sophomores on the team, put down a kill to make it 13-12, but that’s as close as the Vikings would get in the pivotal third game.
“Grays Harbor started fighting back and we weren’t ready for them to fight as hard as they did,” said Hailey Miller, a 5-4 freshman from Ephrata. “We fixed a lot of things tonight and we can play a lot better. Coach says it won’t come all at once, but we can get better one percent at a time and we got better tonight.”
The Vikings host Linn-Benton Community College at 4 p.m. on Thursday before traveling to metro Portland to play in the Clackamas Community College Tournament Friday and Saturday.