The Sisters Outlaws scored the opening point of Tuesday's match with the Crook County Cowgirls.
However, from that point on, it was all Crook County as the host Cowgirls dominated the match, winning in straight sets, 25-17, 25-21, 25-22.
"It feels really good," Crook County senior middle blocker Kenna Woodward said of the win. "I think it's a good start and we can go up from here."
The early season match, in Prineville, pitted two of the top volleyball programs in the state against each other.
Although all three sets were close, the Cowgirls were able to keep their poise and were able to win most of the long rallies.
Crook County first-year head coach was especially pleased with the Cowgirls' effort since the team had not practiced well the night before.
"It was nice to come out and play that well after a couple rough practices and a jamboree where we didn't really click," she said. "It was nice to come out and play tough and play by the rules and hit well and serve well."
Woodward agreed that the Cowgirls had played much better in the match than how they performed in their last couple of practices.
"I think the difference was that we have more intensity in games," she said. "We should definitely practice with more intensity, but tonight I think it was the intensity, adrenaline, and just focusing in that made the difference."
The Class 4A Outlaws came into the match riding a high note as they had already defeated a pair of Class 5A schools in Pendleton and Thurston.
Although Sisters looked good at times, it was the Cowgirls who found a way to score each time the match became close.
After the Outlaws' early 1-0 lead, the Cowgirls scored eight of the next 10 points as they rolled out to an 8-3 lead.
Sisters tried to rally, and closed to within two points at 10-8, before Crook County went on another tear, running out to an 18-10 lead on Kills by Woodward, junior Liz Barker, sophomore Kendal Maycutt and freshman McKenzie Jonas.
From there, the two teams traded points until Woodward closed out the set with a kill followed by an ace.
Once again, Sisters scored the opening point of the second set. However, after trailing 2-0, the Cowgirls quickly rallied, eventually opening up a 10-5 lead. The Outlaws kept it close the rest of the set, but were never able to get closer than two points. Every time the Outlaws would make a run, the Cowgirls found a way to answer.
Crook County finally closed out the set on a kill by senior Lily Cooper.
Set three was close throughout, with neither team ever leading by more than four points, but once again, the Cowgirls found a way to win each pivotal point, closing out the match on another Woodward kill.
Crook County won virtually every statistical battle. The Cowgirls finished the match with 34 kills compared to 24 for the Outlaws. Crook County had 10 aces, to two for Sisters. The Cowgirls had six kill blocks, while the Outlaws had just four.
Woodward led a balanced Cowgirl offense with 10 kills, while Cooper and Barker each had seven. Maycutt and Jonas each pitched in with five kills.
Barker and Jonas each had a pair of blocks, while Cooper and Woodward each finished with one.
Greta Davis led the Outlaws in kills with seven, while Sam Silva finished with six.
Senior setter Anna Woodward led the Cowgirls in assists with 29.
However, it was libero Kacie Stafford who was the star of the night for the Cowgirls. Stafford did not miss a serve all night and finished with five aces. More importantly, she was in the right place at the right time all night defensively, picking up 24 digs.
"I think we are coming together," Woodward said. "We are communicating really good and we are clicking pretty good as a team. We are at a good starting point, but we definitely have work to do."
Although she was pleased with the performance that she saw, Struck agreed that the team still needs work.
"We have a lot of potential," she said. "We just have to improve every day in practice. We have to work hard and we have to continue to cut down on our errors every game."
Next up for the Cowgirls is a match at Madras on Tuesday, Sept. 10. The team is on the road again on Thursday, Sept. 12 when they travel to Eugene to play Marist Catholic and Hidden Valley.
The Cowgirls do not play another home match until Tuesday, Sept. 24 when they take on Hood River Valley in their second Intermountain Conference match of the year.
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