PENDLETON — On a night where the Pendleton volleyball team honored its eight senior players prior to its match with Hermiston, the group’s vast amount of on-court experience came in quite handy.
The Buckaroos were aiming for a season sweep of Hermiston, while the young Bulldogs were aiming to end what’s been a tough regular season on a high note with an upset of the rival Bucks. Hermiston came out swinging against Pendleton in the first set and built up leads of seven points, nine points and eventually 10 points at 20-10.
Howver, Pendleton knew from experience that the set was far from over and just had to work a little bit harder and get on a run. And when the Bucks finally did, they came at Hermiston fast and quick and eventually frazzled the Bulldogs. Pendleton rallied to win the first set 26-24 and went on to win the match 3-1 (26-24, 25-11, 22-25, 25-8) on Tuesday night at Warberg Court.
“I feel like we finally just put a lot of heart into our game,” Pendleton senior Maureen Davies said of the Buckaroos’ first set. “It’s a rivalry game we just had to push through and keep pushing on to achieve what we want for our season and we did that.”
“It’s kind of a perfect send-out,” Hermiston coach Amy Dyck added. “We’re a very young team, they’re a very seasoned team and that situation was textbook young versus old, being able to battle and stay focused to finish off a set is difficult and comes with a lot of experience ... It’s awesome for (Pendleton) to show that because for us, that kind of sets the tone for what we want to be like in the future.”
Davies continued her strong season with another huge game up front for the Buckaroos (14-5 overall, 7-2 Columbia River Conference) as she registered 18 kills and two blocks. She had a quiet first set but came on strong as the match went along with 10 kills combined in the final two sets.
“It feels great when everything goes right,” Davies said. “It’s something we call Buckaroo volleyball and when everything is going right and going our way it’s a lot of fun for us to have that confidence boost the rest of the way.”
Pendleton set the tone to start the second set with a blistering fast start, working into a 16-2 lead as Hermiston looked all out of sorts. The Bulldogs did put together a short run at the end of the set, scoring five straight points to make it a 22-11 game, but that was as close as Hermiston could get.
Though that Bulldogs’ run may have sparked a bit of a momentum shift as Hermiston was the one that came out swinging in the third set. Pendleton earned the first three points but it was the Bulldogs that went on a 10-1 run to jump in front. Hermiston’s led by as much as eight in the set and looked well on its way to a set win with a 20-13 lead.
“I’m not sure what’s happening with the switch-on, switch-off, switch-on, off again,” Pendleton coach Amanda Lapp said of the team’s dip. “We’re going to try to work on that tomorrow. They have to work for it, they always have to work for it.”
And just like the first set, Pendleton wasn’t ready to give in. The Buckaroos picked up a few consecutive points and went on a run, cutting Hermiston’s lead to just one point at 23-22. However this time, Hermiston was able to hold off the charge as a kill from Emma Combes and an ace from Masie Hancock gave the Bulldogs the win.
“That’s a good thing about having a young team is short-term memories,” Dyck said. “After a set like the first, we don’t get too down on it, and we’re able to change a couple of things, change our mindset and go and show them what we can do. I think that shows the growth that we’ve had over the year.”
Junior Sophia Streeter led Hermiston up front with 12 kills and three blocks, while Combes had five kills. Hancock added eight aces and eight digs as the Bulldogs wrapped up their 2017 season.
Pendleton came back strong in the fourth set and did not allow Hermiston a chance to get going, as Davies registered four kills within the first 10 points and Pendleton coasted to the win.
“It was great to see them work hard for it and get in and everybody go to the grind for it,” Lapp said. “It really warms me to see them really putting forth all their hard work for the last four years and just this season, it’s really coming to fruition on the court.”
On senior night, each of Pendleton’s seniors contributed to the win. Behind Davies, Gentner had seven kills and four digs, Jaiden Lemberger had four kills and one dig, Kaci Graber was 100 percent serving with one ace, Kalan McGlothan had four kills and one block, Kourtny Garnett was 100 percent serving with one dig, Lauren Richards had an ace, one kill and two digs, and Talia Lunny was 100 percent serving.
“I’m really upset that it was senior night,” Davies said. “Volleyball is my favorite sport and to know that this was one of our last home games, I’m upset, but happy that we came out with a win. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way with my team.”
Pendleton will play its regular season finale on Thursday at Baker.
Contact Eric at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-966-0839. Follow him on Twitter @ByEricSinger.