Nielsen, Griner have big hitting night to lead Big Bend over Wenatchee

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Rodney Harwood/Columbia Basin Herald Big Bend middle blocker Sadie Nielsen powers through the Wenatchee block during Wednesday's NWAC East match at DeVries Activity Center.

MOSES LAKE — Big Bend got a big hitting night from Sadie Nielsen and Payson Griner. The 5-foot-11 middles combined for 29 kills and the Lady Vikings served up a 3-1 victory over Wenatchee Valley to snap a three-game skid 18-25, 25-15, 25-23, 25-18 Wednesday night at DeVries Activity Center.

You can’t really say Big Bend overcame a sluggish start, but they did flip the switch and balls inches from the floor started coming up, the blocks were stronger, more intimidating, and the kills went down and stayed down.

The team that won more matches in September than it did all last season is starting to like being on the “W” side of the scoreboard and finding way to get there more often. Wednesday’s match was just one more scrappy way the Vikings found to get it done.

“I think we were reacting to everything early instead of just going out and playing,” said Ryana Recustodio, a 5-foot-6 defensive specialist from Kodiak, Ala. “We refocused, just turned the switch and started working hard for everything. We stopped thinking so much and just played.”

After a couple one-sided sets, the match was tied going into a decisive third set. Griner, who finished with 11 kills on the night, tipped a nice ball into open space to give the Vikings a 15-11 lead midway through the third and Big Bend extended its lead to 17-12.

But Wenatchee Valley (9-16, 0-6) reeled it back in tie things up at 17-17, winning the point of the night where the ball crossed the net an estimated 25 times before the Knights put it down. The set was tied at 20-20 and again at 23-23 with a nice cross-court kill by Nielsen, the 5-11 middle blocker from Moses Lake.

“We had to amp everything up one more level,” said Nielsen, who had a team-high 18 kills, three solo blocks and three block assists. “Wenatchee is really scrappy and I don’t think we expected the ball to come back like it did. Once we started anticipating the ball to come back, we started playing a lot better.”

Wenatchee’s Maddee Ward left the door open with a service that went long, giving Big Bend a 24-23 lead. The Vikings closed it out with another Griner tip to open space in the middle of the defense to give them a 2-1 lead and an all-important 25-23 set score.

“We’ve been working real hard and I thought the front row connected real well with our setters tonight,” Nielsen said. “We’ve executing better and putting free balls down because if you don’t you just wasted the opportunity.”

Martina Wilder finished up with 30 assists, spreading the ball around to a front row that gained momentum as the match went on.

“I think we’re building something better. We definitely have the mindset of winning this year,” Recustodio said. “We’ve been competitive against North Idaho and Spokane and feel like we can compete against anybody.

“We just have to keep working hard and getting better every match.”

Spokane (25-0, 6-0) leads the NWAC East, followed by Walla Walla (24-4, 5-1), North Idaho (17-8, 5-2). The Vikings are currently seventh in the East standings.

Big Bend travels to Pendleton, Ore., on Friday to play Blue Mountain.

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