Bucks volleyball take big step up

<p>Pendleton's Shea Lea Lindsey sets the ball as Hermiston's Gracie Flyg looks on Tuesday in the Bucks' 3-2 loss to the Bulldogs in Hermiston.</p>

After finishing third in the Columbia River Conference last year, Pendleton volleyball enters 2011 “definitely” a stronger team as a whole.

That was second-year coach Jodi Primus’ stance at the Buckaroos’ team tryouts, as she listed several improvements from last season starting with size and hitting. The Bucks will have at least three middle blockers standing 5 foot 10 or taller, and all are upperclassmen. 

Amanda Fowler, who recorded the team’s second highest kill total last year, returns at outside hitter with Courtney Schumacher-Sweek, who left the team midseason a year ago. Junior Shea Lindsey brings starting experience at setter, and junior Jory Spencer may be the league’s best libero.

“Jory almost never lets a ball hit the ground,” said Primus, “and she will be very key to our success.”

A pleasant surprise for Primus has been the addition of sophomore middle blocker Shelby Sanders, who will be a tall and intimidating presence at the net.

Like last year, Pendleton (6-14-1) will need to bring its A-game every night to beat teams in the CRC. Defending champion Hermiston (11-6-0) is the clear favorite to win the conference, returning player of the year Crystal Schmidt and a strong senior class. The Bucks started talking about dethroning the Bulldogs since their first team practice, and will get their first stab at victory Sept. 20 during the preseason.

“They’re expecting us to lose, but we’re going to surprise them this year by winning on their floor and bringing it,” said junior middle blocker Xayna Robinson.

Learning from her first year coaching, Primus said Pendleton will be better conditioned this year, hopefully reversing the trend of dropping two five-set and six four-set matches last season. The?Bucks worked on countless pressure situations during the summer, and said they are taking this season more seriously. 

“Pendleton has lost its pizzaz over the last couple years in girls’ sports,” said Spencer. “Teasing has made us stronger, and now people believe in us like we believe in ourselves.”

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