Crook County falls to third place in Intermountain Conference with close loss to Ridgeview

LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Mekynzie Wells passes a ball during the Cowgirls' match against the Ridgeview Ravens last Tuesday. Wells finished with 28 digs in the match, but the Ravens escaped with a five-set victory over the Cowgirls.Playing at home on senior night, the Crook County Cowgirls played inspired volleyball, but it wasn't enough as the Ridgeview Ravens edged the Cowgirls in a five-set thriller.

"I'm so proud of the girls," Crook County head coach Baylee Dunkel said following the match Tuesday night. "I couldn't be prouder of them. I told the team not to hang their heads about this loss. This isn't a loss to hang your heads about. We fought one of our hardest fights of the year."

The match, which was the longest match of the season for both teams, lasted nearly two and a half hours as both squads fought to take control.

Ridgeview eventually took control in the fifth and final set as they eked out an 18-25, 25-22, 25-18, 18-25, 15-6 victory.

The gymnasium was electric the entire night, as both teams gave everything they had in the match.

With a big crowd from both schools yelling and cheering, it was deafening at times in the gym as the two teams hit each other with their best shots.

"I loved the atmosphere," Dunkel said. "Both sides were being extremely loud. I could barely speak to my players on the court because it was so loud in here, and I loved that. I love that intensity."

The match was a contrast in style with the taller Ravens blasting big spikes, while the Cowgirls countered with some huge blocks and a diving scrappy defense.

The Cowgirls were playing without senior outside hitter Kerigan Waibel, who is out for the season with a knee injury, and without junior middle blocker Kenna Woodward, who has missed the last week with an injured ankle.

Crook County brought up freshman Kendall Maykut and sophomore Syrie Ossenkop from the JV to replace the missing players, and the team didn't miss a beat.

"It's really tough not being able to play tonight," Waibel said. "This is my senior night, knowing that this is my last home game and I didn't get to play is really disappointing, but I'm really proud of my team. I thought that they fought really hard."

Early in the opening set, the two teams traded points. After five early ties, the Cowgirls took control of the set, rolling out to a 20-14 lead.

Ridgeview tried to rally late in the set, but the Cowgirls kept their composure and put the set away on a Raegan Wilkins kill.

LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Liz Barker goes up for a spike. Barker finished with six kills and five blocks as the Cowgirls slugged it out with the Ridgeview Ravens Tuesday night.The Cowgirls took a lead again early in the second set. However, the Ravens rallied, tying the set at 8-8 on a kill from Nicole Bossemeyer.

Consecutive kills by Bossemeyer, Susanna Bailey and Rylee Troutman gave the Ravens a 14-11 lead. However, the Cowgirls went on a run, eventually tying the match at 16-16. From there, Crook County scored five consecutive points, running out to a seemingly insurmountable 21-16 lead.

However, after a Ridgeview timeout, the Ravens rallied, scoring 10 of the final 11 points of the set to even the match at one set apiece.

Ridgeview broke open a close third set with an ace from Kennedy Buckner and kills by Troutman and Jackie Vaughn as they rolled to a third set win.

Just when it looked like the Ravens had all the momentum, the Cowgirls responded in a big way. Crook County used a pair of Wilkins kills and a series of Ridgeview errors to open up a 10-5 lead in the set.

The Cowgirls continued to extend their lead, eventually pulling ahead 22-14. The Ravens attempted to rally, but Crook County held on to win the set and tie the match, setting up a fifth set showdown to 15.

Troutman went wild in the final set, blasting seven of her match-high kills in the set.

Ridgeview raced out to a 7-0 lead and led 13-1 before the Cowgirls rallied late in the set.

"We dug ourselves a hole in the fifth game," Waibel said. "But other than that, I thought we played really good. I love each and every one of them, and I'm just proud of my team."

When Liz Barker blocked a Troutman spike, the Cowgirls still had life, trailing 13-5.

However, after a Raven timeout, Ridgeview was able to close out the match on kills by Megan Alldredge and Troutman.

"There was a lot of emotion on this match," Crook County senior libero Mekynzie Wells said following the match. "It was my and Kerigan's last home game, and the circumstances are different between Ridgeview and Crook County."

Wells added that the rivalry between the two teams has become fierce because both Troutman and Kennedy have transferred to Ridgeview from Crook County.

Raegan Wilkins goes up for one of her 16 kills during the Crook County loss to Ridgeview. The loss dropped the Cowgirls to third place in the Intermountain Conference.
"It just makes it more of a personal game," Wells added. "I felt really good knowing that my team wanted to fight just as bad as I did, but it was really disappointing, especially with what was on the line."

What was on the line was a chance to share in the league championship. Had the Cowgirls won, Crook County, Ridgeview and Hood River Valley would have been in a three-way tie for first place in the conference.

Instead, Ridgeview is now in sole possession of first, and the Cowgirls have slipped to third in the conference with two matches remaining on the schedule.

In addition to the 26 kills from Troutman, the Ravens picked up nine kills by Bossemeyer, seven from Bailey, five from Vaughn and four from Alldredge.

Meanwhile, the Cowgirl offensive attack was led by 16 kills and one block from Wilkins.

Maykut added seven kills and a block, while Liz Barker finished with six kills and five blocks.

Lily Cooper and Ossenkop each picked blocks for the Cowgirls as well.

"I thought our blocking was insane," Dunkel said. "We have worked on blocking a lot, and it was just tremendous tonight."

Dunkel was also pleased with the Crook County serving and defensive effort.

"Our serving was awesome," she said. We only missed three serves the entire match. And our defense, I think that because the blocking was so good our defense was actually able to move around the block and that put them in the right place to dig."

And dig the Cowgirls did, amassing an incredible 68 digs in the match, including 28 from Wells.

"Mekynzie was flying around all over the place," Dunkel said. "She was really putting it all out there tonight. Everything they put down, we were digging up. If all the girls can play like that once we get Kenna back, I think that we are going to be unstoppable."

Despite the loss, the Cowgirls are still in good position for post-season play.

Crook County is in sixth place in the OSAA power rankings with two matches left to play.

With the top three teams from the Intermountain Conference qualifying for the state playoffs, not only should the Cowgirls earn a playoff game, they should still host a home match.

Crook County plays at Redmond on Thursday, then travels to Pendleton on Tuesday, Oct. 23 for the final regular season match of the season.

The Pendleton match was originally scheduled for last Thursday but was moved because of Crook County homecoming activities.

Because of the late playing date, the match will take place after the OSAA freezes the power rankings and after the playoff brackets have already been set.

"This was definitely good preparation for the playoffs," Dunkel said. "It's going to be loud. It's going to be fast paced. So they need to get their minds ready for that."

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