HERMISTON — In volleyball, momentum can come in bursts, quick flashes like the lightning provided by a cracking kill. But it can also come in long runs, methodical streaks that drain the life from one side of the net.
On Tuesday in Hermiston, the Pendleton Buckaroos used the latter to foil a Bulldogs team that had tied the match at one set apiece. Pendleton (13-3, 9-0 CRC) exploded to begin the third set after dropping the second and would never relinquish its power. The Bucks would beat the Bulldogs (6-14, 3-6 CRC) in four sets 25-21, 21-25, 25-19 and 25-16 to win their 10th straight match, nine consecutively in Columbia River Conference play.
“I feel like every time we lose our second game as usual, we always come back stronger in the third and fourth (sets),” said Robinson, a senior who led the match with 12 kills. “I think we were a little nervous we were letting it go...but that just gives us the fire to come back and be more intense and more motivated to win.”
Hermiston regained its footing halfway through the third, wiping the stars from its eyes and getting to within five points. But that moment was already game-point at 24-19 and a Bulldog hitting error wrapped up the set and kept the Bucks on their war path into the fourth as well.
Senior setter Shea Lindsey was again at the center of the attack for Pendleton, really coming on in the final two games. A passing machine, she assisted on nine kills in the third and another seven in the fourth to bring her match-total to 23. Outside hitter Rayne Spencer also benefited from the distribution, finishing with 10 kills.
For the Bulldogs, the kills were spread evenly throughout the lineup. Andrea Kappleman also had 12 for the match, while McKenzie Byrd went for 11 and Hannah Mabbott put up nine. Shelby Sanders started on a torrid pace with five in the first set, but largely disappeared on the kill front after that to finish with seven.
Sanders, a junior middle hitter, also had a team-high six blocks, second only to Robinson’s seven for Pendleton.
Hermiston’s offense, bogged down by hitting errors for most of the season, has tried to perfect its double-setter formation. Shay Kennison, 16 assists Tuesday, and Mykel Liebe (13 assists) share time on the floor each match. But as the Bulldogs started falling farther behind against the Bucks, coach Becky Wadekamper hoped to shake things up by inserting sophomore Brea Kestler into the rivalry game.
“She’s been having some really good practices the last week or so,” Wadekamper said. “Also, we were at a point right there where we were trying to find a spark to get the momentum back. When (Kestler) went in, she did well for us playing pretty strong defense off the corners. We were just trying to ride that up and see how that went.”
Kestler had a pair of deep digs in the third set to sustain rallies and finished with three in part-time action. But nothing could perturb Pendleton.
For the Bucks, the Columbia River Conference title is already wrapped up, but coach Jodi Primus said that’s only the first goal on a long list. With a 3-0 record against its Umatilla County rival in Hermiston, Pendleton is just one more win away from another goal there. The teams meet again in Pendleton on Tuesday, Oct. 23, to close out the regular season.
Keeping the girls motivated for the postseason hasn’t been hard, Primus added. Even when they run into some frustrations, like the adversity Hermiston’s blockers created at times Tuesday, the coach just keeps her Bucks fighting forward.
“They had some great blocks and blockers, but I said, “I don’t care, don’t let that get you down,’ ” Primus said. “We expected a tough game all the way to the finish.”
Contact AJ Mazzolini at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-966-0839.