PENDLETON — The hint of uncertainty could be felt on occasion throughout Warberg Court on Tuesday night, but Pendleton’s volleyball team ended the match by casting all doubts aside.
The Bucks broke a four-match skid to take down the visiting Hood River Valley Eagles in three Intermountain Conference sets: 25-14, 27-25, and 26-24. Although Pendleton did not drop a set along the way, major rallies helped them recover from critical Hood River leads and keep the match in control for its season’s first conference win.
“We weren’t expecting (the Eagles) to come out like that,” said senior outside hitter Zoe Jones, who led the Bucks with 17 digs on the night. “We really need to work on our mental game as a team.”
An out-of-bounds return from Hood River senior outside hitter Makenzie Chambers helped Pendleton out to a 2-0 lead to start off the first set, but the two teams proceeded to knot the score six times to keep things tight.
Chole Kurahara, the Eagles’ 6-foot, 3-inch senior setter, was walked off the court with a leg injury suffered after trying to recover a Pendleton return, and from there, the set was all in favor of the Bucks.
Sophomore outside hitter Sauren Garton and junior middle blocker Josie Wilson scored big in contributing to a five-point rally that kept Pendleton ahead for good.
The Bucks took a 10-point lead at 24-14 to force an Eagles timeout, but an unforced error from Chambers gave the set to Pendleton.
Hood River held a 5-0 advantage early on in the second set, but let errors get the best of them to bring Pendleton back in the game. Four unforced errors, including two from Eagles junior outside hitter Morgan Baker, tied the score at 7-7.
Three more unanswered points, including another kill from Garton, gave the Bucks a 10-7 lead. Eight additional ties ensued before another error from Chambers put the Bucks up 24-22.
Baker kept the Eagles alive at match point to come within a point of the Bucks, and Jones had an out-of-bounds return that evened the score at 24-24.
“When we saw Hood River in a jamboree, we thought this would be a building year for them,” Pendleton coach Amanda Lapp said. “But we noticed they had been improving. We knew they were going to make us work tonight.”
A forced error on Pendleton’s side of the court put the Eagles up 25-24, and the Bucks called a timeout.
“I got ‘em in there and told them to earn their points,” Lapp said. “When it gets going, which team is going to be in the game?”
Jones notched a kill for a 25-25 set, Baker followed with another error, and sophomore middle blocker Daisy Jenness got the match point.
Eight more ties were scattered throughout the final set. Junior outside hitter Emma House dug Pendleton out of a close deficit for a 24-24 tie, and two more critical errors on the Eagles’ side of the net allowed a Pendleton sweep.
“(The Eagles) lost a lot of players this year, and that was tough for them,” Jones said. “They played hard, but we just played a little bit harder.”
Garton had a team-high seven kills, and Jones and Jenness each added six. Senior libero Carissa Cooley had 14 digs.
Pendleton (4-6, 1-2 IMC) will compete for their second conference victory at Ridgeview on Thursday.