Walla Walla High School dug itself a 7-2 deficit in opening-set volleyball action in the Blue Devil gym on Tuesday.
But the Blue Devils got the ship righted and took care of business the rest of the way, as Wa-Hi powered past Hanford 25-13, 25-9, 25-20 to improve to 2-0 in Mid-Columbia Conference action.
Sarah Wilson, at the service line for the Blue Devils, got them back into the first set at 7-5 before a service error gave the Falcons a sideout and an 8-5 lead.
Wa-Hi’s Kaiya Lynch blasted a kill to get the serve back, down 8-6. Before Lynch was finished at the service line, Wa-Hi had control with a 14-8 lead.
“We had the (opening home game) jitters,” Blue Devil coach Tracy Rotert said of her team’s slow start. “We were too excited and made a bunch of errors. Kaiya’s hit turned the tide.”
Sophomore Jade Ilaoa slowed the Falcons’ first-set attack with her net play. Ilaoa’s hits resulted in seven Blue Devil points as Wa-Hi took set one, 25-13.
Behind the serving of Monica Miller, Ilaoa and Hannah Hair, and Hair’s play at the net, the Blue Devils jumped to a 15-3 lead in the second set.
Hair’s blasts from her middle blocker spot never allowed the Falcons back into this one.
Miller started at the service line for Wa-Hi in the second set, and finished it — thanks to a drop shot from Hair for the final point — as Wa-Hi took a 2-0 lead with a 25-9 win.
“The middle spot is my spot,” senior Hair said. “I like to be involved, and I like the super-fast action in the middle. In the middle, you are up on every ball.”
The Blue Devils, especially the eight upperclassmen, are adjusting to life without their all-conference performer, Noelani Helm, this season. Helm is off to the University of Portland.
“It is an adjustment, as I played school and travel ball with Noelani for four or five years,” Hair said. “We had a super-tight connection. We have adjusted and have not had to hold back. It’s about what we have, not what we don’t have.”
Hanford bounced back in the third set.
Following two serves from Brooklyn Baker that the Blue Devils could not return, the Falcons enjoyed an 11-5 lead, but Emma McGuire’s hit earned Wa-Hi a sideout.
Ilaoa and Hair got the Blue Devils back into it.
With Ilaoa serving, Hair pushed one over the Falcon defense to knot the game at 13-13.
A Hair smash put Wa-Hi up for good.
Ilaoa finished her run at the service line with an ace to put Wa-Hi up 15-13.
A Hair hit stopped a Falcon run at 15-14, and Hair went to work at the service line with a combination of soft serves and hard smashes to move Wa-Hi in front 21-14.
“We try to mix up our serves,” Hair said. “Hit deep to their back line to set them back. Then the short (soft) serve.”
Addie Baker stopped the last Falcon run of the night with a hit at 21-17 and the Blue Devils closed out the third set 25-20 to sweep the match.
Hair led the Blue Devil hitters with 12 kills.
Ilaoa added eight kills, and Lynch contributed six kills to the Wa-Hi sweep.
Miller directed the offense with 31 assists.
Mya Wood led the defense with seven digs, while Wilson and Miller each had six digs.
“I’m super-excited with where we are at,” Hair, a Seattle Pacific commit, said of the 2019 Blue Devils. “We have a great mix of young and of experienced players (six seniors, two juniors, four sophomores). We have a lot of room for growth, The sky’s the limit.”
Wa-Hi takes their 2-0 record into a home match with Kennewick on Thursday.
“I’m happy where we are at (2-0),” Rotert said. “Jade (Ilaoa) did well. It’s nice to see the young ones get in a groove. We have moments of greatness, but need to learn how to sustain that level.”