PENDLETON — One of the first goals that the Pendleton Bucakroos volleyball team came up with prior to the start of the 2017 season was to make the playoffs.
On Tuesday night, Pendleton achieved that goal.
The Buckaroos defeated the Hillsboro Spartans 3-1 (25-16, 25-7, 12-25, 25-17) in a Class 5A play-in game at Warberg Court to advance to the state bracket. Maureen Davies notched another double-digit total in kills with 14 to lead the Buckaroos, while Ellie Nirschl followed with seven and Kalan McGlothan and Rylee Gentner both had four.
“It’s been one of our long-term goals and we’re glad to get there,” Pendleton coach Amanda Lapp said afterward. “Now we just have to make progress and see the consistency come out in the next couple of days to make sure that we’re really showing up to the next match.”
Pendleton (15-6) shot out of the gates and showed it was the better team on the court with two quick set wins 25-16 and 25-7, putting the Spartans on the ropes. However, Pendleton came out in the third set a little relaxed and instead of putting the Spartans away, it let them right back into the match with a 25-12 victory.
In that set, Pendleton dropped a couple of points to start and then things seemed to snowball into a 7-0 hole and later a 15-5 deficit. The Buckaroos continuously gave away points to the Spartans, with spike after spike sailing out of bounds, failure to control digs and bumps putting the offense all out of sorts, and on top of that every break seemed to fall the Sparants’ way. The Buckaroos did rally to get within six points at 17-11, but Hillsboro hung on for the win.
“We just kind of relaxed a little too much and didn’t push back and fight on,” Lapp said.
In the fourth set, Pendleton took control early with a 7-0 start of its own and never relented. Davies tallied five kills in that set alone as the Buckaroos settled back into their groove to finish off the victory. Lapp said that prior to the fourth set, she gave a short peptalk to try and re-spark the intensity that the team played with to start the night.
“They had to get back to playing Buckaroo volleyball,” Lapp said. “The intensity needed to jack up a lot, the match was slow. All I was asking for them was to move quick and go back to basics like we’ve been talking about all year. When you start getting out of control and losing some points, you have to go back to basics, figure out what’s wrong and work through it.”
The win puts Pendleton into the state tournament as a No. 12 seed, where it will face No. 5 Sandy on the road on Saturday. Game time is TBD.
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