That’s the only way the Columbia River Conference crown should be decided.

Down to their last few points the Hermiston Bulldogs mounted a furious comeback against the Pendleton Bucks to win an epic five-set thriller, 14-25, 25-19, 16-25, 30-28 and 17-15, Tuesday in Hermiston.

Head coach Becky Wadekamper said it was one of the more remarkable matches she had ever been a part of.

“This match ranks pretty high on my list,” she said. “I don’t think I’ve been a part of a more intense match than what was displayed here tonight.”

The Bucks dominated early, cruising to an easy first set victory.

But the Bulldogs didn’t give up and came out strong to start the second set. The crowd came alive as the Bulldogs put the finishing touches on their second set victory.

Wadekamper praised the resiliency of her squad.

“Our girls kept fighting,” she said. “Pendleton went on a few runs against us all night. I just told our team to calm down and take it point by point. They really believed in each other tonight.”

The Bucks sucked the life out of the gymnasium again in the third set, coasting to another victory.

The match and the conference title seemed all but wrapped up for Pendleton halfway through the fourth set as the Bucks opened up an 18-8 lead on the Bulldogs.

Hermiston chipped away at the Bucks’ lead, ultimately tying the set at 21.

That kicked off a back-and-forth rally that lasted until the Bulldogs prevailed 30-28. The epic comeback by Hermiston sent the crowd and the team into a frenzy. It was the longest set of Wadekamper’s coaching career, she said.

“That fourth set was one for the ages,” she said. “I’ve never played to 30. I honestly don’t remember much about it. I thought our girls did a good job of keeping their cool with their backs against the wall.

The fifth and deciding set was an instant classic just as its predecessor was. The Bucks opened up a 4-0 lead on the Bulldogs, and both teams traded points until the Bulldogs were able to tie the set at nine. Once again the Bulldogs seemed dead in the water as the Bucks were down to match and championship point on two separate occasions.

The Bulldogs came back for one last time beating Pendleton 17-15 to secure the league championship.

“I’m just so proud of the way our team battled tonight,” Wadekamper said. “You can’t ask for much more as a coach.”

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