GRESHAM, Ore. — After two Wenatchee Valley College volleyball players let a ball fall between them, Kelly Ketcham had seen enough.
The Knights coach could tell that something was wrong with his team Thursday during the first set of its Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges tournament loser-out match against the Raiders. He called a time-out and attempted to settle his players down. He knew if they could simply relax and play like they were capable of that they’d have a good chance at extending their season.
Thanks to a dominating service run from Randi Wales, WVC was able to do just that. The Knights beat the Raiders 27-25, 25-19 to advance to the second day of the tournament.
WVC, which was swept by Mount Hood earlier in the day, will play Highline or Spokane at 3 p.m. today in another loser-out match.
“They were very nervous (at the start of the Pierce match),” Ketcham said. “I wasn’t expecting that, to be honest. I know they didn’t want to lose and be out in two. Fortunately we were able to pull out the first set, which was a big deal, and in the second set, Randi put in what must have been about eight magnificent serves in a row to give us a nice healthy lead.
“She had three aces, and even the ones that weren’t aces were just ridiculous. She was putting them almost to the back wall. When we serve like that, the other team can’t attack and has to give us a free ball, and we’re able to come back and blast it.”
Chancy Gill had perhaps her best hitting performance of the season against Pierce, recording 12 kills and a .423 hitting percentage.
Ketcham said that WVC was outplayed by a taller Mount Hood squad, which entered the tournament ranked fifth in the NWAACC coaches’ poll and the top seed out of the South Region. The Knights fell 25-17, 25-16, 25-17.
Gill and Danielle Norton had 11 kills each to lead the Knights.
“I thought we’d be tougher in that match than we were,” Ketcham said. “(Mount Hood) has a couple of big guns that can really smoke the ball, and we were doing OK with that, but they wore us down because we didn’t have a middle attack. They began to load up to block the pin hitters, and we had a hard time with it.”
Ketcham praised the effort of setter Jordie McGregor, who had a combined 52 assists on the day.
“She did a fantastic job of running our offense,” he said. “I was very impressed with how much of a great leader she’s been. She’s really risen to the challenge.”