PENDLETON — The Hood River Valley Eagles started Thursday’s match with Pendleton in junior-varsity mode before turning the level up in the next two sets. Had square one not been so low, the Buckaroos would have had a real fight on their hands.
Instead Pendleton (5-3, 4-0 CRC) remains undefeated in Columbia River Conference matches, cruising to a four-set victory 25-12, 26-24, 18-25, 25-13.
But set No. 2 was different.
The Eagles woke up and began forcing the errors themselves. After the Bucks went up 18-13, the Eagles went on a tear to pull even at 22-all. The Bucks needed a timeout.
The breather didn’t have quite the desired effect and Hood River Valley moved to game point at 24-23. Pendleton coach Jodi Primus called her second timeout in three points after using none in the first set all together.
“We just wanted to bring more intensity,” senior Amanda Fowler said. “It’s really helped us in games like that...We’re just trying to refocus and it gets in their head a little bit too.”
The Bucks came out of the timeout and Fowler spiked down two kills from her outside hitting position to take the lead back. A rattled Eagles team couldn’t answer, banking the ball out of bounds on the next game point.
“I thought we passed better and served better in the second and third game, but they just kept the pressure on,” Hood River Valley coach Scott Walker said. “I really want that second game back. We were right there.”
The Eagles would respond after a breather of their own between sets. Pendleton ran into some trouble in the third, falling behind big as they tried to shift into a two-setter formation.
With sisters Shea and Darian Lindsey rotating through as setters, the idea is to make the offense equally dangerous from both sides. Instead on Thursday the Bucks looked like they were playing on a slanted court.
“We tried something different with our lineup just to get a new feel with it, to change things up a little,” Shea Lindsey said. “We freaked ourselves out a little. Everyone on our team is perfectly fine and skilled to play every position that they’re put at, but we freaked ourselves out a little bit.”
Even as the Eagles were trying to fly back into this one, the Buckaroos’ service game was closing the match out. The trio of Fowler, Evangelina Olivera and Rayne Spencer combined to serve 25 of 27 in the final two frames. Fowler served six straight winners that put the match out of reach at 23-11 in the final set.
All middle blocker Xayna Robinson needed to do was finish it off. She knocked down three of her 11 total kills for the three final Pendleton points.
Spencer also had 11 kills while Shea Lindsey had a game-high 19 assists while serving a perfect 21-of-21.
The victory gives the Bucks a little more breathing room in the early goings of CRC play. No other league team has a record above .500 and the Eagles are now two full games back in the conference standings.
Contact AJ Mazzolini at email@example.com or 541-966-0839.