After defeating Ridgeview in the semifinals, Cowgirls fall to North Medford in consolation championship match

LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Kacie Stafford passes a ball during the Clearwater Classic on Saturday. Stafford finished with 38 digs during the tournament as the Cowgirls lost to North Medford in the silver bracket finals. The Crook County Cowgirls had an up and down day at the Clearwater Classic Volleyball Tournament, held Saturday in Bend.

Crook County went 3-3 in pool play, dropping into the silver bracket where they defeated Reynolds and Ridgeview before falling to North Medford in the bracket final.

"That was a big deal, I think," Crook County head coach Baylee Dunkel said of the semifinal win over league rival Ridgeview. "Coming into that, I knew that was going to set the tone for the next time that we have them and beating them, I think is going to give us a little bit of an edge. I'm proud of the girls for what they accomplished today."

Central Catholic defeated Bend in the gold bracket championship to win the tournament, while Sprague, who won Crook County's pool, lost to Sandy in the gold bracket quarterfinals.

Crook County opened pool play with a 25-17, 25-16 win over Roseburg.

The Cowgirls continued to play well during their first set against St. Mary's Academy, taking a 26-24 win. However, the Cowgirls struggled in their second set against St. Mary's, falling 25-14.

Crook County continued to struggle against Class 6A eighth-ranked Sprague in their final pool play match, falling 25-14, 25-11.

Dunkel noted that because of injuries and sickness, she tried several different lineups during pool play and that may have contributed to the ups and downs.

However, she noted that by the end of the day, she had found a lineup that she liked.

"The injury thing, and the sickness thing, we've had to kind of experiment," she said. "Finding a lineup that works well is difficult, but I think that I finally found a lineup that I'm liking more than the other ones that I've tried."

The Cowgirls started strongly in bracket play, taking the first set from Reynolds 25-11. However, the team once again struggled in set two, falling 25-21. Crook County then pulled out a 15-10 victory to advance to the silver bracket semifinals.

Crook County rolled to a 25-16 win over Ridgeview in the opening set of the semifinals, then once again struggled in the second set, falling 25-16 to the Ravens.

Ridgeview led 14-11 in the third and final set before the Cowgirls scored the final five points of the set and match to pull out a 16-14 victory.

"It was a really big deal," libero Mekynzie Wells said of the win over Ridgeview. "Because our whole team wanted it so much and to come out and show that our team has the ability and skills — to come out and beat them the way that we did in the first set — that it should give our team a lot of confidence for our league game against them."

That win moved the Cowgirls into the bracket finals against North Medford, who had defeated South Eugene and Roseburg to earn their spot in the silver bracket championship.

LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Kenna Woodward goes up for a kill against St. Mary's Academy on Saturday at the Clearwater Classic, while Raegan Wilkins covers behind her. Woodward finished with 29 kills in the tournament, while Wilkins led the team with 53. Although they stayed close, the Cowgirls were unable to find a way to defeat the Black Tornado, who took a 25-19, 25-17 win.

"The ups were really good," Wells said of the day. "I felt like our serving was really good. Our hitting was really good. We took care of the ball really well. Our setting was good, and we passed the ball really well. The downs and the way it ended kind of sucks, but it was a good tournament, and we got a lot of good competition."

Raegan Wilkins led the Cowgirl offensive attack on the day, finishing with 53 kills, while Kenna Woodward added 29 kills and 10 blocks.

Wells led the Cowgirl defense, amassing 96 digs during the tournament, while Kacie Stafford finished with 38, and Stormie Camara added 29.

Dunkel noted that she was pleased with the way the team served all day as well as the production that the Cowgirls got from their freshmen throughout the day.

"We had a lot of girls with a 100 percent serving in a lot of games, so our serving was very good," she said. "I'm just really proud of our freshmen for stepping in and taking up the space that we need to fill in for Kerigan (senior Kerigan Waibel, who is out for the season with a knee injury)."

Earlier in the week, the Cowgirls learned the bad news about Waibel.

Thursday evening, in their first match since learning that Waibel was out, the Cowgirls found a way to defeat The Dalles in straight sets in a match at The Dalles.

Crook County took the opening set 25-21, then took set two 25-16 before closing out the match with a 25-15 win in the third set.

"It was pretty good," Stafford said of the match. "I think that we could have done better the first two games, but I think that the last game we really showed our skill level more."

Dunkel and several players missed practice prior to the match with The Dalles with various illnesses, still, the Cowgirls continued to roll.

"It was pretty hard," Stafford said of the week. "We talked about it a little bit beforehand, but I think that our coach is starting to get healthier, and it really sucks losing an outside hitter. It's her senior year, and she's one of our best outside hitters, but she's still going to be there supporting us."

Wilkins led the Cowgirls in kills against The Dalles, blasting 11 kills in the final two sets. Woodward added six kills, while Liz Barger finished with four kills and four blocks in the match.

Stafford led the Cowgirl defense with 17 digs, while Wells finished with 16.

Anna Woodward finished with six aces in the match, while Stafford added five.

The Cowgirls are now 15-6 on the year, and 5-1 in conference play.

"Anna and Kacie had amazing serve games and so did Kenna. Kenna ran a lot of points, and Anna and Kacie had a lot of aces. I'm really proud of the team for the resiliency that they showed this week."

Crook County is currently ranked fourth in the OSAA power rankings. The Cowgirls are tied with fifth-ranked Ridgeview (15-6, 5-1) for the conference lead, while seventh-ranked Hood River Valley is close behind with a 4-2 league record and a 14-4 overall mark after upsetting Ridgeview Thursday night.

The Cowgirls host Hood River Valley tonight in a match that will go a long ways toward deciding the Intermountain Conference championship.

"I think that we have built up some momentum for our game against Hood River on Tuesday," Stafford said. "It's a really big game. We just want a lot of people there. A lot of support, it's definitely one of our biggest home games, so we just want a lot of people there that are excited and a lot of people rooting us on. Go Cowgirls.

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