PENDLETON — As the Pendleton Buckaroos funneled out of the girls’ locker room adjacent to Warberg Court for practice this week, they passed a phrase head coach Jodi Primus plastered above the team room door earlier this season. Black adhesive lettering spanned the width of the doorway, a less ra-ra and glittery juxtaposition to the signs that dot the gym on game day.
The message is a simple one; its wording brief. As one.
“We’re not doing our own thing, we’re all together doing everything as a team,” Evangelina Olivera said, describing the sense of teamwork that elevates successful programs above the rest.
But to no Pendleton player have the words “as one” and the message of team before individual rung more true than Lindsey Roach. When an offseason injury threatened to derail her junior volleyball campaign, Roach adapted. She can’t play the net, can’t set and can’t serve normally but the defensive specialist is doing anything she can to help the team.
During the spring, when Roach was a sophomore pitching for the Pendleton junior varsity softball team, she started to feel some unusual soreness in her throwing shoulder. The right arm hurt each time she uncorked a pitch to home plate, the windmill-motion of a softball pitcher causing a firestorm in her joint.
In April she had to stop throwing all together, missing a call-up shot to the varsity ranks and the Bucks’ state title run. Doctor visits left her with a slew of uncovered medical conditions. Roach’s diagnosis was filled with words like tendinitis, bursitis, and shoulder impingement syndrome. The shoulder was too tight. Her shoulder’s tendons and bursa were pinched between bones.
Even months later after dozens of physical therapy sessions and daily stretches, the arm’s motion is still seriously impeded. It can’t reach over her head without the stinging sensation or rotate forward — as in a volleyball spiking motion.
But she’s on the court.
“Volleyball season came around and I was like, ‘I’m not going to let it take another sport away from me,’ ” Roach said.
Roach became a ball-digging specialist on a defensive rotation through the lineup. She lives on the back line, helping receive serves and passing the ball off to her setter for the offensive unit.
She’s also taught herself to serve with her non-dominant hand. Roach can now jump serve with her left while her right arm stays pinned to her body, lines of athletic tape running down from her shoulder like streams of mountain run-off.
Her competitive drive has fueled the change of position, but it’s also caused a few painful moments this season. Roach’s volleyball instincts have kicked in during matches when a stray ball comes her direction. Though she knows reaching for a hit will lead to some painful inflammation in her shoulder after the match, sometimes she strikes out for it anyway.
“Early on in the season I would have to get on her because she’d try to be setting. And she can’t do that,” coach Primus said.
Seeing what a player like Roach can bring despite her circumstances is uplifting for the rest of the team, Primus said. Between her work and the continued presence of Kasidee Lemberger, who missed the season with an arm injury but still occupies the bench during matches and practices, the Bucks have some extra motivators.
They play as much for their banged-up teammates as for the girls on the court, Pendleton’s setter Shea Lindsey said.
“A lot of people don’t even know she’s hurt but she can’t use her right arm at all,” Lindsey said. “It shows her character a lot, too, that she’s out here every day working really hard to be with us doing just as much as we can.”
The inspiration goes both ways.
“They are the only reason that I am able to go out there and play,” Roach said of her teammates. “They push me through. They’ve made this year fun for me, even though I have an injury.
“Some people think that if you have an injury, you’re down, you’re on the bottom. They make me feel even. They support me and make me feel I’m as one.”
The Pendleton squad has taken a few years to craft its team chemistry. After suffering through a pair of six win seasons in 2010 and 2011, the Bucks reeled off more than those combined this year to finish the regular season at 16-4. Pendleton went 11-1 in Columbia River Conference matches to win the league championship.
The No. 7 Bucks are now on to the Class 5A postseason while earning a home match to start the first round. The Liberty Falcons (15-7) out of Hillsboro come to town Saturday for a 4 p.m. first serve.
The Falcons finished third in the Northwest Oregon Conference and rank 10th in the state per the OSAA.
By dropping the Falcons on Saturday, the Bucks would earn a trip to Liberty’s home court, coincidentally the site of the state’s eight-team final bracket. Pendleton hasn’t made the final site since 2007 when it lost in the quarterfinals.
Contact AJ Mazzolini at email@example.com or 541-966-0839.