HERMISTON - Hermiston was able to rebound from a first-game loss to claim the second game against La Grande, but the Tigers, a former Intermountain Conference team, got the best of the Bulldogs in non-league volleyball Tuesday.

The Tigers, ranked No. 3 in Class 3A poll, won 25-14, 19-25, 26-24, 25-16.

La Grande was 24-0 entering last week, but fell to Baker and Burns in Greater Oregon League matches. The Tigers entered the match with Hermiston after defeating Grant Union to right the Tiger ship.

"We had a tough weekend," La Grande head coach Teresa Dowdy said. "We talked about that, because we were on the other end. I just talked about not giving up and fighting for every point like it was the last one and we did that and I think that was the difference."

Hermiston led 4-2 and 6-4 in the opening game. A pair of service aces by Mykael Bothum tied the game at 11, but her next jump serve effort was long and La Grande claimed the lead for good, going on to the 25-14 win.

Hermiston showed it could compete with the Tigers as the Bulldogs never trailed in the second game to even the match. The Bulldogs held the lead for most of the third game, but some Hermiston errors allowed La Grande to pull out a late, comeback victory.

"It really did (come down to errors). It was a great match to coach, and I think a fun match for the girls to play in," Hermiston head coach Kay Edwards said.

Each team featured a powerful front line, but La Grande held a height advantage that, coupled with strong hitting, worked in its favor.

"I think that we had exceptional hitting from Kathryn Ely and Kaci Lyman and Katelin Weaver made some incredible digs in the back row to keep us alive. Everybody contributed at different times," Dowdy said.

Hermiston's game two lead was as big as 15-4, but La Grande got to within five points twice late in the game. Priscilla Ena had a key block for Hermiston to halt a three-point service run by Weaver and Bothum provided a two of her 11 match kills late in the game to preserve the win.

"I knew that they had exceptional hitters and (Bothum) could jump serve really good. We just did what we do well and during the game made adjustments," Dowdy said.

In the decisive game three, neither team was able to build much of a lead. The Tigers went up 2-1 before Tasha Vizina served a pair of points for an 11-7 Hermiston advantage. La Grande led again at 16-15, but that didn't hold as Hermiston recorded a sideout on the next serve.

"We had some errors down the stretch in that third game and we let them back in (to the game) with those. Momentum shifts are hard to stop with rally scoring," Edwards said.

Vizina provided 37 assists in the match and had nine digs, while Briawna Mueller had 12 kills. Megan Bergstrom had 12 digs for Hermiston and four kills. Caitlin Cozad had seven Bulldog kills with Ena adding five.

Overall, Edwards was happy with the effort and saw things in a good light heading into the remainder of the week.

"We hadn't been playing up to their potential for a couple of weeks. I think their response to that tonight showed me that they still have a lot of fight in them and a lot of heart," she said. "It's a good preliminary to getting ready for what we have this (week)."

Hermiston (6-4 in IMC matches) will host Class 4A No. 14 Mountain View (9-1) Thursday (5:15 p.m.), No. 10 Crook County (9-1) Friday (7 p.m.) and Bend (5-4) Saturday (1:15 p.m.) before traveling to rival Pendleton Oct. 21 for a rematch with the Bucks, who won the last match in three games.

"This weekend is very important for us and we know that. This match (with La Grande) helps us get ready. It's going to make us a better team," Edwards said.

"I think if we play with the heart and intensity that we played with tonight, we'll put ourselves in position to win every one of those matches."

Christopher Halsey can be reached at 1-800-522-0255 (ext. 1-223 after hours) or by e-mail at chalsey@eastoregonian.com.

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