MILTON-FREEWATER - Although La Grande kept the Pioneers down, Mac-Hi was never completely out of a straight-set Greater Oregon League volleyball loss Tuesday evening.
The Tigers won 25-9, 25-20 and 25-19, but the games were often closer than the scores indicated.
La Grande jumped out to a quick 10-4 lead in the first set, which the Pioneers could never quite contest.
But the second two sets were closer.
"It was awesome," said Mac-Hi coach Kaila Rodighiero of the team's comebacks, especially in the third set. "It was incredible. The first game was rocky, but the girls really fought through it and didn't let it get them down."
La Grande opened an early lead in the second set, keeping Mac-Hi down 4-1.
But the Pioneers came back to tie it quickly off hits by Jayme Freemantle and Cheyenne Kessler, and two service aces by Megan Reed.
La Grande quickly moved ahead again, but Mac-Hi fought for its first lead of the match at 14-13.
They didn't lead again.
The Tigers, off an ace by Denise Comfort, pulled ahead to 20-16, then 24-20, and finally taking the set, 25-20.
Down two sets, the Pioneers could've taken the loss.
But they didn't.
"I could tell their confidence was there," Rodighiero said. "They came back fighting and scrapping and making plays I didn't even know were plays. It was amazing."
The Tigers scored quickly, leading by six before Mac-Hi put points on the board. They took a commanding 17-7 lead - and then something happened.
Mac-Hi, trailing by 10 points, took control of the ball - and a combination of La Grande errors and Pioneer moves helped them put up nine unanswered points, capped by a Reed serving ace, closing them to within one at 17-16.
La Grande answered and took control back at 18-16, but Mac-Hi wasn't done.
Jolene Brannan's service ace moved the Pioneers to 18-18 and their first tie of the set.
The 10-point comeback was short-lived.
The Tigers got organized and came back from a timeout to take control back from the Pioneers with six unanswered points at 24-18.
Reed posted the final Pioneer point of the night on a serving ace in the 25-19 loss.
The Pioneers had five team blocks, led by Nicole Richman and Amy Wells, with two each. Kessler posted the fifth.
They had eight kills, with Wells' four leading, and Kessler, Freemantle, Richman and Brannan scoring once each.
"La Grande is taller - they're really tall, and they're a good team," Rodighiero said. "Their coach told me we had a good team, and I'll take that as a compliment."
The Pioneers are mostly underclassmen, Rodighiero said.
And they have yet to win a match.
"It sucks, because our win-loss record doesn't show how close a lot of those matches are and how much we've actually improved," she said.