PASCO -- As Sadie Sparks emphatically hammered home the final point Tuesday, she also sent a clear message that Chiawana is the team to beat this season.
After two years of toiling in a new school building process, the Riverhawks earned the first volleyball win against visiting Richland in school history, 25-18, 27-29, 25-18, 26-24.
"We've already had our growing year," Sparks said. "This year, we're ready to go big."
Featuring a powerful 1-2 punch up front in Sparks and Shanita Hill, the Riverhawks also ended Richland's CBBN 4A 18-match winning streak.
"We had gone back and forth all summer. We liked our chances coming in, but you still have to go out and do it," Chiawana coach Jim Steach said. "We were excited to win this match, and we are excited to be where we are."
The win wasn't easy, though, as Chiawana let a 19-9 lead get away in the fourth set. Richland took a 21-20 lead and had set point at 24-23.
"We're used to resting when we get up big," Sparks said. "We forget that we have to push through."
The Riverhawks got stuck in a rotation where a few young players felt the pressure, according to Steach. The scene was reminiscent of last Tuesday's match against Wenatchee, when the Riverhawks let a 20-11 fourth-set lead get away, only to win the final set.
This time, though, a fifth set was not needed. Hill tied the set 24-24, and Sparks used her jumping ability and powerful right arm to pound home back-to-back kills and end the match.
"This is a great win," Steach said, "but we're only at the halfway mark. We have Walla Walla coming in Thursday, and if you give it up against them, then this win doesn't mean as much."
For one day at least, though, the Riverhawks get to celebrate, as they took down a Richland team that has been to state the past two seasons.
Chiawana was dominant from the beginning Tuesday, leading by as many as seven points in the opening-set victory. In the back-and-forth second set, the Riverhawks had set point twice, but Monika Hebky had back-to-back kills to finish off the victory for Richland.
The Riverhawks had no problems in the third set, as they had leads as big as 11 points behind four consecutive aces by Sparks.
For Richland, Tuesday featured too many errors. The Bombers, who lost Chelsey Bettinson (Washington State) and Maddi Jacobs, among others, are looking for consistent play night in and night out.
"(Chiawana) had more long runs than we did," Richland coach Bob Raidl said. "We made too many errors to beat a good team. We had some times where we lost our intensity, but coming back from 19-9 to take the lead is unusual in rally scoring.
"We have to cut down on our errors."
Sparks led the Riverhawks with 19 kills, 19 digs, four aces and three blocks, while Hill added 15 kills and 24 digs. Alisha Bettinson's 18 kills and 16 digs led the Bombers.
Set scores: 25-18, 27-29, 25-18, 26-24. Richland leaders--Alisha Bettinson 18 kills, 16 digs; Charlene Manning 7 kills, 11 digs, 2 blocks; Elizabeth Quick 4 blocks; Peyton Wahl 15 digs; Deserea Estavillo 27 digs; Lauren Joseph 33 assists, 12 digs, 2 aces. Chiawana leaders--Shanita Hill 15 kills, 24 digs; Sadie Sparks 19 kills, 19 digs, 4 aces, 3 blocks; Jaymee Steach 37 assists; Shantelle Hill 4 kills, 19 digs.
* Craig Craker: 582-1509; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter.com/craig_craker