PENDLETON — There was a lot of action inside Pendleton High School’s gymnasium Saturday morning. The Buckaroo classic brought four schools together — Pendleton, Hermiston, Putnam and Milwaukie — for four matches beginning at 9 a.m.
The two Columbia River Conference schools each played the Putnam Kingsman and the Milwaukie Mustangs from the Northwest Oregon Conference. The Buckaroos swept their competition, and won the first match against the Kingsman, 3-1 (25-20, 14-25, 25-19, 25-17), and then got it done against the Mustangs in three straight sets — 25-8, 25-8, 25-21.
“It was nice to see the girls come out and just work with a lot of effort and their chemistry really came together,” head coach Amanda Lapp said. “I thought it was good to see them work hard and have a lot of heart all day today. It was great.”
Putnam put up a fight during its first set against Pendleton. The Bucks and Kingsman traded points back and forth, and eventually Putnam knotted the score at 15-15. Pendleton went on a 4-0 run to earn back the lead at 20-15. Despite Putnam’s best efforts, the Bucks took the first set 25-20.
The Kingsman weren’t going to let the second set get away from them. They came out with an early 4-1 lead before the Bucks went on a quick run to claw their way back and tie the score at 7-7. From that point, Putnam dominated and put three unanswered points on the board which was enough to put space between itself and Pendleton. The Kingsman pushed the match to 1-1 after their 25-14 victory.
The next two sets weren’t easy, but the Bucks stuck with it and worked out some wrinkles to eventually take the match.
Pendleton held off Putnam with help from senior Maureen Davies at the net, and good defense that extended rallies which eventually wore out the Kingsman. The Bucks were also able to try out a new lineup which worked in their favor.
“We decided not to play with a libero, so we’re changing our defense constantly,” Lapp said. “We’re also working with a little bit of a front row switch, so girls are really having to think about where they are at and communicate more and that’s working for them really well.”
The second match came much easier for the Bucks. They quickly earned a 2-0 lead after handily taking the first two sets against the Mustangs. Milwaukie didn’t make the win easy, as it fought back in the third and final set, but a 5-1 run from Pendleton put its competition to rest.
With the changes made on the court, Lapp was most impressed with the efforts of two juniors: Elisabeth House and Aspen Garton.
“It was good to see Elisabeth, we pulled her from the left side and put her in the middle,” she said. “She has played some back row for us. She’s playing middle back and middle front and it’s a completely new role for her but she’s really doing the best she can at it.
“We had Aspen again in a new position, this is her fourth new positions this season. They are just making the best of whatever position they are in.”
Statistics for the Buckaroos were not available.
Pendleton (13-5 overall, 6-2 CRC) got much needed reps in Saturday’s tournament, and will close out its regular season next week. The Bucks will host Hermiston at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, and then travel to Baker on Thursday.
Hermiston was also able to take advantage of non-league matches late in the season, and were able to accomplish something the Bulldogs had not yet been able to with their young team. Hermiston picked up its first three-set sweep of the season against Milwaukie. The Bulldogs opened play Saturday against the Mustangs, and battled back in the last two sets to pick up the 3-0 win (25-13, 26-24, 26-24).
“We were able to grind and do the things we needed to do, like the little things and take of things at the net,” head coach Amy Dyck said. “We struggled a little bit at times and again that comes back to the fact we don’t have a ton of experience playing in those big matches so for us, getting a huge lead like that kind of throws us on our heels a little bit because we aren’t used to it.”
The Bulldogs opened play with a huge 9-1 run to take the lead over the Mustangs. Milwaukie chipped away at its deficit, but it simply wasn’t enough. But like Pendleton, Hermiston faced a whole new team after winning the first set.
Milwaukie came out hot, and made Hermiston work to earn its next two set victories. The Bulldogs broke a couple of set points, and had big offensive performances late in each game to get the eventual win. It was an effort Dyck was proud of.
“We were able to push through and even when we were down and they had some set points in the second and third games — for us to be able to come back and finish is huge,” Dyck said. “That’s showing the growth that we’ve had over the season.”
However, the second match wasn’t as favorable as the first. Putnam bounced back from its loss to Pendleton, and swept Hermiston in straight sets (25-21, 25-13, 25-17).
The Bulldogs played hard in the first set against the Kingsman, but lost steam at the end which allowed Putnam to go on a 4-2 run to hand Hermiston its first loss of the day.
The next two sets had longer runs from the Kingsman, along with communication breakdowns from the Bulldogs, which gave Putnam the advantage.
“It’s been a busy week,” Dyck said as the girls immediately left Pendleton for homecoming back in Hermiston. “So the fact they were able to hang in there as much as they did, I’m really happy about. We definitely started getting a little bit squirrelly there and lost focus there in the second match.”
Despite dropping the second match, some Bulldogs still had a good day on the court. Senior Breena Wadekamper had one of the best all around performances, as she recorded five aces, 10 assists, and eight digs. Sophomore Halee Stubbs and senior Masie Hancock led the team with 21 digs each. Junior Sophia Streeter had a team-high nine kills, and freshman Kendall Dowdy notched 13 assists.
The Bulldogs (4-15, 1-7) season will end Tuesday when it travels to Pendleton one last time.
Contact Alexis at email@example.com or 541-564-4542. Follow her on Twitter @almansanarez.