LA GRANDE — The Pendleton Buckaroos found another gear when they needed it, and grinded out a five-set marathon match in La Grande.
Daisy Jenness had 11 kills, Zoey Jones added 10, and the Buckaroos rallied to top the Tigers, 25-17, 24-26, 21-25, 25-14, 15-4, on Thursday at La Grande High School.
Buckaroos’ head coach Amanda Lapp said the team has shown an ability early in the season to come on strong late, and did so Thursday.
“We see them come out and really try to dig deep in the last,” she said. “They’re (finding) heart, and wanting to dig in not just for one person to get the kill, but for the team. “They’re thinking, ‘I wanna get this.’”
Pendleton rolled in the fourth set, using a 13-1 run to build a double-digit lead and coast to an easy win, then rode that momentum into the decisive fifth set, one in which they were never threatened. Jones and Jenness teamed on a block to start a 5-0 run that gave the Bucks an 8-2 lead on a Jenness kill. DeLaney Duchek later had an ace and Emma House had two kills before Jenness ended the match with a kill and the team’s first win of the young season.
“It took a lot of heart,” Jones, who also had a .500 kill percentage, said. “We really needed to come together as one and finish strong.”
Pendleton seemed primed to get out with a quick win. The Buckaroos scored the final five points to pull away late for the first-set victory, and raced out to a 14-4 lead in the second set with a powerful offensive attack.
“We’re trying to get them balls on the net so they can get up and swing well,” Lapp said.
La Grande, which started the match slow, chipped its way back into the second set, getting within 15-11 on a kill by Jayce Seavert. Pendleton pushed the lead back to 21-14 on a Jones kill and were up 23-18. But La Grande scored the next five points to pull even, and eventually eked out the set to knot the match on another kill by Seavert, who had eight on the night for the Tigers.
La Grande rode the momentum to an early lead in the third set, going up 6-0 and later 8-1. Pendleton briefly got as close as three, then two, and eventually took a 21-20 lead on a House kill and two La Grande errors. But Presley Justice, who led the Tigers with 15 kills, had back-to-back kills to help La Grande retake the lead, and two Pendleton errors gave the Tigers the set.
Once Pendleton reclaimed the momentum, though, La Grande didn’t have an answer.
“I think at the end of the game we ran out of gas,” La Grande head coach Melinda Becker-Bisenius said. “We were struggling to put the ball away and keep the ball in play, and that is something we do well at. It’s going to happen against a good team.”
Carissa Cooley led the Pendleton defense with 18 digs, while House had 11. Sam Spriet had 16 assists, Sauren Garton added 11, and both Cooley and Duchek had two aces.
Kenzie Williams had 22 assists for La Grande, Jacie Howton had 13 and Felicity Houston led the Tigers’ back row with 23 digs.
“We really wanted it. I know everybody wanted it, but I think Pendleton put up a better fight,” Justice said.
The Buckaroos (1-1 overall) travel to the Judy Fong Memorial Tournament on Saturday in Lewiston, Idaho.