PENDLETON - The Buckaroos picked the wrong times to get hot Tuesday.
Pendleton (3-3 overall) showed a flair for late-game dramatics in a nonleague match against the La Grande Tigers, but ultimately came up short, falling in five games, 25-23, 22-25, 25-23, 22-25 and 15-7.
"For reasons I don't yet know, we seem to enjoy playing from behind. ... That's when we start up and play our best, and tonight was a pretty good example of it," Pendleton coach Dave Baty said.
Down 23-12 in the first game, the Bucks started an 11-1 rally before coming up short on a misplayed set. They then came back from a 19-13 hole to win the second game.
The late magic betrayed them in the fifth game, however, as the Tigers finished on a 12-4 run after starting the game tied at 3.
"We've played two or three fifth-game matches this season. ... I really thought we'd be fine here today, but for some reason, we all of a sudden turned things off," Baty said.
Six-foot senior Kathryn Ely keyed the La Grande attack with five kills and a service point in the fifth game.
"(La Grande's) always big, they're always strong. ... We can't get in the hole against them, we just can't," Baty said.
On the other hand, Baty acknowledged that his team isn't blessed with size.
"To win, we have to play with heart, and we have to have smart girls playing smart," he said.
During several long stretches, the Bucks performed like the better team in Warburg Court, most notably during their 11-1 run in the first game, their second-game comeback, and a nine-point run in the fourth game.
At other times, though, it seemed as though the wheels were coming off. The Bucks allowed an 18-14 lead in the third game to evaporate, then let the Tigers roll through the deciding game.
"The girls understand that (the fifth game) is all about momentum, and it's all about getting out and getting going," Baty said.
The Bucks pulled to within two in the fifth game when junior Jessica Baty made it 8-6 on a service ace. But Ely responded with a kill on the following volley, igniting a 7-1 run for the Tigers.
Baty led the Bucks with 20 kills and eight service aces. Senior Danielle Gipson had eight kills and senior Chrissy Johnston and junior Mackenzie Larson both had two aces.