If you bothered to look up and to the left before reading my column, you already know that the Hermiston volleyball team worked a little magic last night during a four-game victory over Pendleton.

The 25-19, 25-19, 14-25, 25-23 win was huge for the Bulldogs. Hermiston not only moved over .500 in the Intermountain Conference standings, but it was the first time the Bulldogs handed the Buckaroos a loss in two and a half seasons.

The Bulldogs' Caitlin Cozad and Mykael Bothum both had monstrous nights. Cozad's windmill spikes and Bothum's quick-hitting bullets helped turn the tide every time the Bucks looked as though they'd move into striking distance.

Great kills are easy to appreciate, and it's our job to tell you when players go off the way Bothum and Cozad did Tuesday. But it's also our responsibility to let readers know why the tandem was able to put up the combined 30 kills.

Enter Bulldog senior Summer Knutson.

Don't get me wrong, Knutson didn't have a single kill or even a block for that matter. Heck, Knutson doesn't even start.

The role she plays, though, is a big reason why Cozad was able to stay fresh throughout the long four-game set.

Knutson spells Cozad for two to three sideouts per rotation and plays a fierce back row for the limited minutes she gets on the court.

"She gives Caitlin a break; we need her as fresh as we can have her," Hermiston coach Kay Edwards said. "It's a great opportunity for us to have someone in there as energetic as Summer and someone who is as good a defensive player as Summer."

Knutson admitted that the position she plays on the team can be challenging at times. One minute she's diving across the floor during a 20-19 hard-hitting thriller and the next she's walking off the court and taking a seat on the bench.

"I'm always anxious to get back in," Knutson said. "I try to stay focused.

"I'm always thinking about things I can say to the girls in a huddle, too. Not only do I want to stay focused, but I want to help the team stay focused."

Knutson appears to see the bigger picture and says she'll help the Bulldogs win any way she can even if she's not one of the team's heavy hitters at the net.

But would the 5-foot-3 Knutson like to go up and drive home at least one game-winning windmill spike in her career?

"Oh yeah. I've always wanted to have a kill like Caitlin and Mykael," she said. "Who wouldn't want that?"

As long as the Bulldogs keep heading in the right direction, it seems as though it's a tradeoff Knutson's willing to make.

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Sports editor Lance Ogden can be reached at 800-522-0255 (ext. 223) or by e-mail at lance@eastoregonian.com.

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