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Crook County drops to silver bracket of State Preview Tournament, falls to Sunset in bracket semifinals

PHOTO COURTESY OF KIM WOODWARD - Kenna Woodward goes up for a tip during the South Albany State Preview Volleyball Tournament. Woodward led the Cowgirls in kills at the event with 32.The Crook County Cowgirls got off to a slow start, but finished the day in strong fashion as they tied for third in the silver bracket at the South Albany State Preview Tournament.

"We started a little slow, but the girls just played outstanding in the afternoon," said Crook County head coach Kristy Struck.

The Cowgirls struggled in pool play, falling 25-17, 25-16 to Corvallis in the opening round.

The team improved in their second match against Roseburg, but below average serving turned out to be critical as they split a pair of sets with the Indians. Crook County won the opening set 25-22, but dropped the second set 25-21.

The Cowgirls, who hit 92% of their serves over the course of the day, hit on just 82% of their serves against Roseburg, costing them the close match. That would turn out to hurt. With Roseburg holding the tiebreaker because of point differential, that left the Cowgirls in the bottom of the pool heading into their final pool play match of the day against Central Catholic, which was ranked No. 2 heading into the tournament.

The Cowgirls fell 25-19, 25-15 to Central Catholic, but Struck was pleased with their performance.

"Central went well," she said. "We lost, but we played well. We were up and down all day, but we played Central Catholic tough. Kenna (middle blocker Kenna Woodward) got a little frustrated at the end because she didn't know where to put the ball, but you know, we were up against girls that are 6-3 and she was tired because she plays all the way around."

Once in the silver bracket, the Cowgirls defeated Philomath 25-16, 26-24 to reach the semifinals.

"We almost lost against Philomath," Struck said. "We only hit a .074. and our outside hitters hit negative in the match."

Hitting percentage is determined by taking kills minus errors and dividing by the total number of attempts. Teams generally can't win without hitting at least .250, however, strong serving saved the Cowgirls in the match.

The win moved the Cowgirls into the silver bracket semifinals where they played Sunset. The Cowgirls dropped the first set of the match 25-23, then rebounded to win the second set by the same score, before falling 15-9 in the third and final set.

Despite the loss, the Cowgirls only dropped from fourth to fifth in the Class 5A OSAA power rankings. Sunset went on to win the silver bracket, dropped from No. 2 in the Class 6A power rankings, while Central Catholic fell to No. 3.

For the tournament, the Cowgirls hit on 200 of 218 serves with 28 aces. Kacie Stafford went 40-43 from the service line with two aces, while Lily Cooper was 29-32, also with a pair of aces.

Offensively, the Cowgirls were led by Woodward, who finished with 32 kills, while McKenzie Jonas finished with 21 and Liz Barker 20.

"Kenna had 10 kills in 19 attempts in the last game against Sunset, without any errors," Struck said. " I can't really take her off the court, we just fall apart. She's not my best passer and she may not be our best hitter, but there's something when I take her off the floor we just fall apart, everything slows down a little bit, and our communication just stops."

Stafford led the Cowgirl defense with 56 digs, while Kenna and Anna Woodward each had 27. Kenna Woodward also led the Cowgirls in blocks with four.

"We didn't have a lot of blocks today," Struck said. "But they got their hands on a lot of balls and they slowed a lot of balls down."

After splitting their matches in bracket play, the Cowgirls are now 9-2 on the year.

Crook County has a key league match against the Ridgeview Ravens today. Like the Cowgirls, the Ravens are undefeated in league play. Both teams enter the match with nine wins on the season and 3-0 league records. The winner of tonight's match, which is scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m. in Prineville, will have sole possession of first place in the Intermountain Conference.

"We can't be up and down like we were on Saturday," Struck said. "We have to play our best volleyball the entire match."

Ridgeview, which finished second at last year's state tournament, currently has a 9-3 record and is ranked third in the power rankings. The Ravens have won 25 sets so far this year and dropped 11. Meanwhile, the Cowgirls have won 27 sets and dropped just six.

Following tonight's showdown, the Cowgirls are back in action on Thursday when they travel to Redmond to take on the Panthers, 2-5, 0-3. The team then closes out a busy week on the road again when they travel to Gresham for the Barlow Invitational.

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