GRESHAM, Ore. — With their season on the line, the Wenatchee Valley College volleyball team matched the Highline Thunderbirds in every facet of the game — except one.
The Thunderbirds’ offensive power was too much for the Knights to overcome, and they lost 25-15, 25-20 in a loser-out contest at the NWAACC Championships at Mt. Hood Community College on Friday night.
“We matched them on digging, we matched them on blocking, we probably did a little better than them on serving, but they just were able to terminate in some cases where we weren’t,” Wenatchee Valley coach Kelly Ketcham said.
The Knights finished the tournament at 1-2, and their season ended with a 15-19 overall record.
Pateros alumna Chancy Gill led Wenatchee Valley with nine kills and 13 digs in the loss to the Thunderbirds. Danielle Norton added eight kills and seven digs, Jordie McGregor of Leavenworth made 17 assists and 10 digs, and Sarah Cross had 13 digs and an ace.
Highline was led by the duo of Mikaela Ballou (10 kills, 11 digs) and Hailey Dunham (nine kills).
“I think that was the best the Highline team played at the tournament. They found their rhythm,” Ketcham said. “They hit .228 as a team and we hit .081 — that’s the difference right there.”
Despite the loss, Ketcham was pleased with the performance he saw from his squad.
“I thought they were as ferocious and competitive as they can be,” he said. “I was very proud of Danielle Norton tonight — she had to sit down in between sets (after hitting her knee on the referees’ stand), but she went back out there and played through the pain and was as fierce a hitter as I’ve ever seen her. Chancy was great tonight, too, and Jordie did a great job running the offense.”
Ketcham was also beaming with pride about what the Knights had accomplished in a late push to qualify for the tournament after they lost top hitter Jordan Lautenbach to a knee injury in October.
“We didn’t have a lot of talent, but we had a great team. They just played together so hard and as a unit,” he said. “I think this team played at the peak of their ability. They’re as good as any team I’ve had in terms of heart and will to fight and character.”
The Knights will lose just three sophomores to graduation, so the championship tournament experience will be invaluable come next season.
“We’re taking away a lot of good learning (from the tournament),” Ketcham said. “It was pretty emotional for all of us at the end of that match, but (the players) had their kind of grieving period and they’re rebounding. It was great, after drying their eyes, Sarah Cross said, ‘When do we get to play again?’ I always like to hear that.”