After doing much of the damage for Tacoma Baptist near the net, senior Natalie Snyder closed out a key victory against Crosspoint Academy from the serving stripe. Snyder delivered two late aces and led a 10-0 run in the deciding fifth set to lead the Crusaders over the Warriors 25-12, 21-25, 25-20, 17-25, 15-5 in their regular season finale at home on Oct. 25. The win not only solidified a district playoff spot for Tacoma Baptist, but avenged a loss to the Warriors on the road earlier this season. “We just all had a really good time playing together,” said Snyder, who finished with a game-high 24 kills and eight aces. “It was a team effort. It was not just one person individually.” The Crusaders dominated the first set, with Snyder slamming four kills and three aces early and junior libero Brittany Vandouris later adding two aces to give the Crusaders a 14-4 lead. But after Tacoma Baptist took a 10-6 lead in the second set, the Warriors launched an 8-0 run to take control and level the match. “They are a really scrappy team,” said Tacoma Baptist head coach Rusty Carlson of Crosspoint Academy. “We had to just persevere, because they don’t let a lot of balls hit (the ground).” Snyder led the Crusaders back in the third set, delivering three kills in the span of five points to give Tacoma Baptist an 18-14 advantage. “I just go up there and try to see what spots are open and just hit,” Snyder said. “I get nervous sometimes, but my coach just tells me to go out there and swing.” After watching Crosspoint tie the third set 19-19, Kathryn Carlson and Lily Powell delivered back-to-back kills to help the Crusaders claim the set. But the Warriors took an early 5-4 lead in the fourth set and never let up, clinging to a slim advantage to send the match to the decisive fifth set.
That is when Snyder stepped up again, forcing a side out to tie it 5-5 and then serving for the final 10 points to clinch the win. Junior McKenna Neufeld led the Crusaders with 38 assists, while Kathryn Carlson had seven kills and Vandouris added a team-high 12 digs. After falling in four sets to the Warriors on Oct. 9, Rusty Carlson noted that several factors led to the turnaround. “We were more focused, we played more aggressively and we played better on offense,” he said. “We matched their intensity.” With the win, the Crusaders prepare for the district playoffs at Stanwood High School, with a loser-out matchup against Darrington on Nov. 3 at noon. The winner advances to play Bear Creek at 2 p.m. “We don’t have anything to lose,” Snyder said. “We’re going in as the underdogs, like we always are. I’m just excited about trying to go to state.”