PENDLETON — After a lightning-fast first half of the season, the Pendleton volleyball team’s second half has been a struggle.
A 7-0 start had given way to a 3-5 stretch and back-to-back road losses to La Grande and Hood River Valley had the Buckaroos searching for that early-season groove. Not helping were a hit of injuries, including junior libero Kirah McGlothan who is out for the remainder of the season with a right knee injury.
On Thursday night against The Dalles, it seemed as if the slide might continue for another game as a flat, frantic start led to a first set loss to the Riverhawks. However, the Buckaroos were able to dig deep on its home court and rally for three straight set wins to hand the Riverhawks a 3-1 loss (19-25, 25-15, 25-19, 25-19).
“We saw them come out with a little bit of heart tonight,” Pendleton coach Amanda Lapp said, “and we’ve been asking for over the last couple matches that we’ve seen. Getting that slow start tonight, we just needed to shake out the cobwebs and get back into our groove and it looks like we’re finally moving that direction again.”
Maureen Davies had a monster game for Pendleton (11-5 overall, 6-2 CRC) with 15 kills, four blocks and two aces. She smacked a thundering kill to clinch the second set victory and blew away the Riverhawks (6-11, 2-6) with another kill in the third set to break a 16-16 tie and put Pendleton in front for good in the set.
Behind Davies, Rylee Gentner tallied eight kills with three digs, Elisabeth House had five kills and Elli Nirschl added three kills.
Pendleton still had slow starts in nearly every set, getting in a 4-1 hole in each of the final three sets. But the Bucks were able to turn to Davies or Gentner for a timely kill or a block, and get big-time digs from the likes of Aspen Garton, Kourtny Garnett and Lauren Richards to help gain momentum as the sets went along.
“They really pulled it out tonight and we’re starting to shift back into that team they started out playing like,” Lapp said. “One of the goals this year was to start strong and end strong and we’re trying to ramp back up and finish strong.”
Pendleton hosts a tournament with Milwaukie and Hermiston on Saturday at 9 a.m.