Big Bend goes down in three to North Idaho

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Rodney Harwood/Columbia Basin Herald Big Bend outside hitter Hailey Miller of Ephrata goes down low on a serve receive during Wednesday night's NWAC East match with North Idaho College. The Cardinals won 3-0.

MOSES LAKE — The fact that Big Bend went five sets with North Idaho College at the Crossover Tournament earlier in the year indicates the Vikings program has come a long way in a short time.

That being said, the Cardinals (14-7, 2-1 NWAC East) made short work of the Vikings in Wednesday night’s NWAC East match at DeVries Activity Center, blasting Big Bend 25-23, 25-15, 25-15 to make a clean sweep.

Sadie Nielsen from Moses Lake had a team-high eight kills and Martina Wilder, a 5-foot-7 setter from St. Anthony, Idaho, finished with 12 assists. But that was about it for the Vikings, who lost the momentum in the second set and didn’t have an answer for the Cardinals power game once they got it going.

“We played reactive instead of proactive,” Vikings coach Mike De Hoog said. “I thought we had some bright spots, but we lost focus. We just couldn’t string enough good plays together.”

Big Bend came out swinging. The first set was tied at 15-15, then 18-18, and again at 19-19, but North Idaho (14-7, 2-1), which was a NJCAA national tournament just three years ago until joining the NWAC, caught fire and ran out the first set 25-23.

“We took them to five in a tournament, so we came in thinking we would play them better. We just lost our momentum a little bit and never got it back,” said Hailey Miller from Ephrata. “I think I was trying going line a lot more tonight rather than cross court because they had six-footers blocking me, which is fine. I just need to play smart rather than powerful.”

Dakota Egbert led the Vikings in digs with 10 and Ashlee Adams had eight for a Big Bend team that played more on its heels in the second and third games.

“They started attacking and it was a combination of things. We didn’t hold up our end of the bargain and fulfill our responsibilities,” De Hoog said. “But we’ve been working on what we can control, our emotions, intensity and executing shots.”

Once the Cardinals got it going, there was just no getting it back. But the Vikings are making strides as a program and chipping away at changing the culture of a program that won just three matches in two previous seasons.

“It feels like we’re building something,” said Miller, who is one of just three sophomores on the club. “We’re shaking that mindset we had last year going into games. Now we know we can compete and beat teams. It’s more like we think we can and not that we can’t.”

Everybody in the NWAC East is chasing unbeaten Spokane (23-0), but the Vikings have a chance to improve their status on Thursday when they travel to Walla Walla (24-1, 2-1).

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