The Chiawana Riverhawks have had their share of struggles this season, but they took a big step in getting back on track Thursday night.
Kylie Thorne had 19 kills and McKenna Kaelber handed out 48 assists as the Riverhawks held off Walla Walla 27-25, 16-25 27-25, 16-25, 25-13 in a key Mid-Columbia Conference volleyball match in Pasco.
“This is a good win for us,” Chiawana coach Jim Steach said. “We were far more even-tempered. A lot of it is trust. We were able to stay in the system more consistently. We have a lot of sophomores and juniors, and they are learning to play at a high level.”
The Blue Devils, who won the fourth set 25-16 to force the fifth, dropped to 7-3 in league play, just a match in front the Riverhawks (6-4), who are tied for third with Kennewick.
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“We would have liked to have gotten the win,” Wa-Hi coach Tracy Rotert said. “We had our opportunities. It was a very, very good match. Chiawana’s passing was spectacular. We had some moments of brilliance, we just aren’t consistent.”
After a 3-3 tie early in the fifth set, the Riverhawks jumped out to a 9-4 lead behind strong serving from Alaina Scott and Abbey Bonnington.
A Walla Walla timeout turned the tide. Back-to-back blocks pulled the Blue Devils within 9-6, and an unforced error by Chiawana and a kill by Wa-Hi’s Kamryn Coleman made it 9-8.
Steach called time to settle his team, and a kill by Iva Tebay forced a sideout. Tebay hit the top of the net with her forearm on the play, but the call stood, giving the Riverhawks a 10-8 lead.
“One thing we tell the girls is earn your point,” Rotert said. “We are all human. It’s not something we can dwell on.”
Tied at 13, Thorne hit the ball off a Wa-Hi block, and the Riverhawks won the match on a Blue Devils’ unforced error.
“This was pretty big,” said Thorne, who also had 11 digs. “I’m proud of how we played together as a group. It was fun. The great passes helped a lot. Without those, there are no great hits.”
Tied at one set apiece, the Blue Devils came out on fire in the third, taking a 23-19 lead as Coleman strung together five points, which included two ace serves.
Chiawana used a couple of blocks to pull within 23-22, and Thorne made it 23-all when she hit off a block. The Riverhawks would hold on for another 27-25 win.
Walla Walla led from start to finish in the fourth, and finished the set with a menacing cross-court kill by Noelani Helm.
Helm finished the night with 16 kills, five blocks, 22 assists and 14 digs. Coleman added 14 kills, Hannah Hair 10 kills and eight blocks, and Emma Wenzel 10 kills and three blocks.
Set scores: Chiawana 27-25, 16-25 27-25, 16-25, 25-13. Walla Walla: Noelani Helm 16K, 22 assts, 5B, 14 digs; Kamryn Coleman 12K, 4 aces, 15 digs; Emily Dimino 26 digs; Hannah Hair 10K, 8B; Emma Wenzel 10K, 3B; Jordan Wicklund 24 assts. Chiawana: Kylie Thorne 18K, 11 digs; Yaneli Garcia 14K; Mareesa Hill 14K, 18 digs; Marissa Logozzo 43 digs; Alaina Scott 13 digs; McKenna Kaelber 48 assts.