La Grande dug itself a big hole at the start of each set against Baker and was unable to dig its way out.
As a result, the Bulldogs clinched no worst than a share of the Greater Oregon League title.
Kaylee Burk had 14 kills and Kaeli Flanagan added 12 to lead Baker to a 25-21, 25-18, 25-21 win over the Tigers Tuesday night at La Grande High School.
“I feel like we played really hard but we just couldn’t get the energy going,” Kenzie Williams said. “We played pretty confidently, but we were just making tiny mistakes that weren’t going our way.”
La Grande only led once the entire night — 1-0 to start the second set – and spent the entire evening trying to play catch up. The Bulldogs jumped out to early leads of 8-2 in the first set, 7-1 in the second set and 9-2 in the third set.
“We just didn’t have the energy tonight,” head coach Melinda Becker-Bisenius said. “As a team we started out really slow. We talk a lot about (how) we need to start strong. We need to finish strong. We just didn’t do that. We got into some big holes.”
La Grande was not only behind the entire night, but was unable to get the energy and celebrating going that any volleyball team needs, despite trying to make efforts to get the team – and the crowd — into the match.
“On the bench we were trying to get the energy up in the crowd and in the game, it just wasn’t catching,” Claire Hardy, who led the Tigers with six kills, said. “I think that was one of our main problems was we couldn’t get the energy up — in the crowd, on the bench, or in the game.”
Becker-Bisenius said the team was also lacking in communication and execution, areas that have been stronger when La Grande has had success.
“It doesn’t matter who the opponent is, we have to take care of the ball on our side of the net,” Becker-Bisenius said. “And a lot of times tonight we weren’t doing the things that we work on.”
The Tigers, though, did make a run in each set to try and get back in the game. A pair of Baker errors in the first set cut the early deficit to 10-8. Burk later had a kill to push the Bulldog lead to 20-14, but three straight kills from Hardy, Alyssa McDowell and Haley cut the deficit to three. Williams followed later with one of her five aces to make it 23-21, but Baker finished the set.
The second set reached 20-10 before the Tigers again rallied. Williams had a kill to start an 8-3 run, which ended with a block by Jaiden Hafer, to make it 23-18 before Baker took the next two points for the set.
“We know what we need to do, but when they get a run on us it’s hard to come back. We just need to push through,” Williams said.
Baker scored the first five points in the third set, and went up as much as 20-13 before La Grande’s last ditch effort. Riana Scott started a 4-0 run with a kill, and after Baker pushed it to match point, Kelsey Brown had a block to keep the Tigers within 24-21, but the rally stalled.
Both Hardy and Becker-Bisenius said the outcome was more on La Grande’s struggles, and not getting outplayed by Baker.
“Baker didn’t blow us out. We made a lot of mistakes,” Becker-Bisenius said. “We helped them out a lot.”
“I think it was more of an off night for us,” added Hardy.
Williams, in addition to her five aces, had five assists, three kills and nine digs. Liz Cashell led the back line with 14 digs and Jayce Seavert had 11.
The Tigers (6-7 overall, 2-2 GOL) look to regroup Thursday when they host Pendleton.