PENDLETON — Thursday’s volleyball match at Warberg Court was just what Crook County expected.

The Cowgirls, who had defeated Pendleton twice last season, returned to hand the Bucks a three-set loss of 25-17, 25-14, and 25-12, staying unbeaten in Intermountain Conference action and holding onto the No. 2 spot in the league standings.

“We wanted a little more competition,” Cowgirls senior middle blocker Kenna Woodward said. “They’re a reasonably good team. But, knowing we beat them last year, we knew it would be an easier game.”

A pair of blocks from 6-foot Cowgirls junior outside hitter Elizabeth Barker helped Crook County jump out to a 6-2 lead to open the first set. The Bucks battled back with a block from Daisy Jenness and a kill from Sauren Garton, pulling them within one point of a tie. A six-point Crook County rally, capped off by senior Lili Cooper’s kill, kept the Cowgirls out front for the remainder of the set.

“We made (Crook County) earn their points,” Pendleton coach Amanda Lapp said. “It was good to see that the girls weren’t going to roll over. They knew they were going up against a good team.”

Net errors and out-of-bounds returns from Crook County (8-1, 3-0 IMC) helped Pendleton knot the score at 4-4 to kick off set two. It would be the first of three ties before the set was up.

Jenness notched another kill to break a 5-5 tie and put Pendleton up 6-5. Garton also posted a tie-breaking kill, but Barker rallied the Cowgirls out front again and forced a Pendleton timeout.

“The first two sets were great,” said Jenness, an outside hitter. “We earned our points, and (Crook County) got the points they deserved.”

Woodward’s kill later extended Crook County’s advantage to nine points, and two straight points from Cooper finished off the set in the Cowgirls’ favor.

Another Crook County net error opened the final set to give Pendleton its final lead of the night. Bucks senior libero Carissa Cooley hit the ground with a dig in an effort to keep Pendleton alive, but her team failed to return the ball, handing over the lead to the Cowgirls one last time.

“The third set got mental,” Jenness said. “After one mistake, we let it get to us, and it all falls from there. We’re a young team. We play raw and with a lot of passion.”

Cooley had a return that landed out of bounds, and Cooper posted another kill to aid in another six-point Cowgirls rally. From there, they took three 10-point leads. Two bad Pendleton returns extended that advantage to 12 points.

Barker got one last kill, and an out-of-bounds hit from Garton handed Crook County the match point.

Coach Lapp noted that Crook County hit the court with as much strength, height, and experience as last season.

“Nothing has changed. They’re a good team,” Lapp said. “They come from a core program. Their kids work hard.”

Pendleton senior setter Sami Spriet gave the Bucks 12 digs, a trio of aces, and a 91% accuracy from the service line. Senior outside hitter Zoe Jones finished with 11 digs, and junior middle blocker Josie Wilson had four kills.

Pendleton (4-5, 1-2 IMC), now on a three-match skid, travels to Westview High School for a nonleague tournament on Saturday.

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