PENDLETON — Hermiston clinched at least a share of the Columbia River Conference volleyball title by besting an old rival Tuesday night when the Bulldogs knocked off Pendleton 3-2 at Warberg Court.
The victory (25–23, 17–25, 25–13 , 19–25, 15–6) was Hermiston’s eighth straight over the Buckaroos, including seven league wins.
Senior middle blocker Crystal Schmidt unleashed on the Pendleton team, racking up 23 kills for the Bulldogs (14 –6, 8–1 CRC). Her strikes provided energy for the team, Hermiston head coach Becky Wadekamper said, but her defensive effort is what really clinched the win.
“Crystal’s been real solid,” Wadekamper said of the 6-foot-1 senior who accounted for 11 blocks. “She’s got a good jump range that makes her very formidable. Between her and (our outside blockers), we have a solid block on that right side."
Hermiston used a pair of Schmidt blocks and a pair of Maloree Moss aces — two of her four total — to build a commanding lead. The Bulldogs would use six aces in the set to pull ahead 2-1 in sets. Schmidt looked at the third set as a turning point for her team.
“We came off sluggish at the beginning,” she said. “We looked like we were cold and had just come off the bus even though we’re only 30 minutes away.”
The teams traded sets for the first four and headed into the decisive fifth set. Pendleton held leads in each at least momentarily but the fifth set was different. Hermiston blew the Bucks away 15-6 to win.
Where the service game had kept them afloat early on, unforced errors and aces by Hermiston buried Pendleton, Bucks coach Jodi Primus said.
“When they start really finding the service holes, it takes your whole game away,” Primus said. “The blocking was on and off for us and those two together make it very hard to put together a full offense.”
Pendleton’s blocking looked good for half the match as junior Xayna Robinson and sophomore Shelby Sanders each had double-digit block totals. Robinson added 15 kills to lead the team.
The two squads will meet again to close out the regular season on Oct. 25 in Hermiston.