PENDLETON — Sam Bixler and Bailey Goold may not have won their No. 4 doubles match for the Pendleton girls’ tennis team on Tuesday, but by taking the second set from their Hermiston counterparts the girls delivered a rare team victory for the Buckaroos in the Columbia River Conference series.

On a day that saw few surprises, Pendleton edged Hermiston 4-4 (9-8) on sets won. The No. 4 doubles match was the only one to reach a third-set tiebreaker, which the Bulldogs’ Athena Reid and Baylie Bicknell won 10-4.

“If you want to call this a win, it’s been a while since we’ve beaten them,”?said Pendleton coach Rocky Dillenburg.

Dillenburg and Hermiston coach Juan Rodriguez both said they knew pretty much what to expect out of the teams’ latest meeting well before the Bulldogs’ bus dropped them at West Hills Intermediate School on the pristine afternoon.

“I knew (Hermiston) was going to be strong in the doubles because that’s what they’ve been focusing on this year and we’re pretty solid in the singles,”?Dillenburg said. “I figured it would probably come down to a 4-4 situation.”

The coaches’ expectations held as Pendleton swept the singles matches and Hermiston won all four doubles matches.

Pendleton’s Jessica Clark said she came into the No. 1 singles match wanting to work on her serves, and made good use of her limited opportunities in a 6-0, 6-0 win over Hermiston’s Katrina Vanderploeg.

“I wanted to serve better — I?haven’t been serving the greatest to start off the season — and I?accomplished that and I?served better than I?have,”?Clark said.

“She was serving really well today, getting a high percentage of her serves in,”?Dillenburg said. “And they were nice and deep and in the corners. She was doing a good job of placing where she wanted to.”

Cassie and Keren Hampton each added wins in the No. 2 and 3 matches and Meagan Flanagan won the final singles match. The players combined to go 6-0 in sets and 36-5 in games.

The Bulldogs weren’t quite as dominant in doubles action, but had little to complain about from their day either.

Bailey Burns and Savanna Foley remained undefeated on the season with a 6-2, 6-1 win over Pendleton’s Alma Larios and Keziah Hampton in the No. 2 match.

“It wasn’t one of our best matches but it was OK,”?Foley said.

It’s the first season playing together for Foley and Burns, so their fast start caught them a little by surprise.

“We had never played together before so it was like a transition,”?Foley said, adding that an instant chemistry has helped speed their progression. “We like each other and we don’t fight on the court.”

Although the season still has several tough opponents lined up for the duo, Foley said she isn’t tempering her expectations.

“We’re definitely striving to be undefeated the whole year,” she said.

Rodriguez said the team has a very real chance at a state berth and hopefully will join the No. 1 Hermiston doubles team of Sarah Hawman and Zoey Garcia there.

Hawman and Garcia also are in their first season as a duo, and started slow against Pendleton’s Bailey Bixler and Miranda Muller on Tuesday. They trailed 3-0 before winning 12 of the next 13 games to win the match 6-3, 6-1.

“We were shaky at the beginning,” Hawman said. “We weren’t really prepared. We didn’t come out ready and that’s one thing we need to work on.”

Hawman, a senior, is trying to make state with her third different partner and said she and Garcia are still working on their on-court chemistry.

“We’re getting there,” she said. “We’re going game by game right now.”

Garcia was Hermiston’s No. 1 singles player last year.

“Zoey is a singles player at heart, really, so she’s trying to get used to having to play with somebody else and being able to play at the net,”?Rodriguez said. “It’s taken them awhile but I?think they’re coming together a little bit.”

The girls are running out of time to perfect things, and are hitting the season’s halfway point this week. Hermiston has home matches today against Hood River Valley at 4 p.m. and on Thursday against Capital (ID)?at noon.

Pendleton plays at The Dalles on Thursday at 4 p.m.

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Contact Matt Entrup at mentrup@eastoregonian.com or 541-966-0838.

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