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Crook County takes 25-20, 25-12, 25-17 victory at Pendleton, advance to playoffs

LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Raegan Wilkins goes up for a kill in a match earlier this year. Wilkins led the Cowgirls with 26 kills Tuesday at Pendleton.The Crook County Cowgirls took care of business Tuesday evening, sweeping the Pendleton Buckaroos 25-20, 25-12, 25-17 in their final Intermountain Conference volleyball match of the year.

The visiting Cowgirls took control early and dominated the match, despite resting middle blocker Kenna Woodward.

Woodward, who has missed almost two weeks with an ankle injury, was cleared to play, but head coach Baylee Dunkel opted to rest her to make sure that she was 100 percent healthy for the playoffs.

The strategy worked perfectly as the Cowgirls cruised to the easy victory.

"It was a good way to get ready for the playoffs," Dunkel said. "We had some really good defense tonight, and our offense was doing well too, so I was really happy with that."

Mekynzie Wells, who missed the Cowgirls' previous match with a minor injury, led the Cowgirl defense with 30 digs, while Crook County had 70 digs as a team.

Offensively, the Cowgirls had 44 kills, with Raegan Wilkins blasting 26 of those.

"Raegan was on fire tonight," Dunkel said.

Lily Cooper added seven kills for the cowgirls, while Kendall Maykut and Syrie Ossenkop each finished with three.

Since losing players to injury, the Cowgirls have had a couple of rotations where they have trouble scoring. Dunkel noted that the team has been working hard on those rotations in practice and that in the Pendleton match that finally started to pay dividends.

"We were very rarely stuck in those two rotations that we have been having trouble with," she said. "We sided out a lot. We are trying to work on keeping the serve better, but it was a lot more efficient tonight getting out of those rotations."

Dunkel credited the team's serving with part of that success.

"I think that our serving really helped us out," she said.

Crook County finished with 11 aces in the match, with Anna Woodward leading the way with four, while Stormie Camara and Wells each added three aces.

With the victory, the Cowgirls improved to 19-10 overall and 7-3 in conference play, while Pendleton dropped to 5-12 overall and 4-6 in conference play.

The Cowgirls moved up to seventh in the OSAA power rankings following the win and will host a first-round playoff match on Saturday, Oct. 27 against North Eugene.

Crook County finished the regular season in third place in the Intermountain Conference, while North Eugene finished third in the Midwestern League with a 13-6 overall record and a 12-4 league record.

The Highlanders are ranked 10th in the final power rankings.

The Highlanders have not defeated a top 10 team all season but still are a dangerous team with 6-0 outside hitter Alexis Hobie and 6-0 left-handed setter Hannah Randall leading the way.

Game time is set for 6 p.m.

The winner of Saturday's match will advance to the state tournament at Liberty High School in Hillsboro, where they will face the winner of Putnam and West Albany in a 10 a.m. match.

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