The championship match of the 11th Crossover Classic volleyball tournament Saturday at Lewis and Clark may have been somewhat anticlimactic for first-time winner Eisenhower.
Eisenhower, last year’s tourney runner-up, methodically defeated Auburn Riverside 25-18, 25-22 to remain unbeaten for the season. They trailed once in the two games and were tied two other times.
As routine as the Yakima-based Cadets made it look, the overall significance of the event—the success of the eastern region as well as Ike’s surviving an incredibly strong half-bracket to make the final—was not lost on coach Brad Ackerman.
Of the 16 teams to win morning pool competition at four sites, 10 were either from the Greater Spokane League or Big Nine Conference, who face each other in 4A regional competition in three weeks. Auburn Riverside was the only team outside those leagues to reach the eight-team quarterfinals.
“It’s a very tough region this year,” said Ackerman. “Every team coming out of here is capable of going to state and competing very, very well.”
Among them were five 4A teams from the GSL. LC, the state’s fifth-ranked team, made the semifinals with Mead, despite the fact it was minus star player Ivy Bush, in a knee brace because of tendinitis. Mt. Spokane, Ferris and University were other quarterfinalists. A sixth GSL team, 3A North Central, was a top-12 placer.
To make the final, the Cadets had to defeat regional foe Mead in the semis, part of negotiating a half-bracket that included five of the state’s top-10 ranked teams.
Eisenhower was ranked No. 6 in state and Mead was No. 3. Also on Ike’s side of the bracket were No. 1 U-Hi, which lost to Mead in a quarterfinal, No. 7 Heritage and No. 10 Bethel.
“Yes, it was a little anticlimactic after the Mead match,” Ackerman admitted of his team’s title win. “That was our championship right there in a lot of ways. They were state champions last year so we got up for the game.”
Eisenhower’s championship marked the third time in recent years that a second-place finisher from the previous Crossover went on to win the title.
Kentlake did so, placing second in 2000 and winning in 2001. Sandpoint placed second to Kentlake in 2002 and won last year’s championship match over Ike.
“That’s your motivation right there,” said Ackerman, when asked if it was difficult keeping his team up after the emotional three-match victory over Mead. “(The players) knew it was right there in their grasp, so it wasn’t any problem. They really wanted this one. They were intrinsically motivated after last year.”
The Cadets earlier defeated Bethel and Ferris. Ferris had stunned the tall, veteran Heritage team, which placed sixth at state last year after losing to Mead in the semifinals.
Against Mead, Ike gave up the match’s first six points and ultimately lost the opener 25-18. In game two, the Cadets rallied from a 20-18 deficit to win 25-23. Ike ran off the first five points of the third game during a 25-22 win.
“We rolled over in that first game,” said Ackerman. “I think they had a meeting and they controlled the ball after that.”
Powerful hitting by lithe 5-foot-8 junior Nikki Hernandez and back-row defense took Mead out of its game after the Panthers had been offensively dominant in a 25-21, 25-18 win over U-Hi.
Panthers coach Judy Kight said it was unforced errors, not a letdown after reversing an earlier loss to the Titans, that undid her team against Ike.
The Titans, in pool play on their home court at U-Hi, had won despite missing five seniors for parts or all of matches because they were taking SAT tests.
On the other side of the bracket, LC beat Colville and Mt. Spokane, which also had players missing because of SATs, to reach the semifinals against Auburn Riverside. Just as in the Eisenhower-Mead match, LC won the first game 25-22 after rallying from a 15-12 deficit, then lost twice, both by two points.
The Tigers were beaten 25-23 in the second game and 26-24 in the third after leading at match point 24-22.
Mead defeated LC for third and fourth. U-Hi beat Ferris and Pasco beat Mt. Spokane to share seventh.
Small schools also had their day.
For the third time in 10 tournaments, Colfax finished sixth, losing to Heritage in the match for fifth and sixth. The Bulldogs won their pool at Central Valley, which included Shadle Park and Kamiakin.
Colfax lost to Mt. Spokane in the first round of the championship bracket, then in succession beat Colville and NC. Colville finished tied for 15th.
For all, the Crossover is considered a barometer of progress as the season moves closer to the playoffs. The whole idea is to be the best at the end.
“That’s what we’re working on,” said Mead’s Kight.
For Ackerman’s unbeaten tourney champs, it’s also a chance to learn what to expect when postseason arrives.
“It’s a great measure of where we’re at,” he said. “It’s our first time to really see our regional tournament. I’m always happy to see them and compete against them. Now we know what we have to do.”
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