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Crook County High School faces big showdown with the Ridgeview Ravens Thursday

LON AUSTIN - Syrie Ossenkop, 9, slaps a shot through the block attempt of the Hood River Valley Eagles during the Cowgirls' straight-set victory March 23. CCHS is unbeaten in conference play.

The Crook County Cowgirl volleyball team took another step toward a league championship this week when they knocked off Hood River Valley and Redmond to remain undefeated in conference play with just one week to completion left.

The Cowgirls cruised past Hood River Valley 25-13, 25-7, 25-11 at home on Tuesday, then defeated Redmond 25-23, 25-9, 25-15 Saturday in Redmond.

The Cowgirls fell behind 1-0 in the first set Tuesday against the Eagles, but quickly rebounded to tie the match at 1-1 on a block by Syrie Ossenkop. One play later, Kacie Stafford blasted a kill, and the Cowgirls never trailed again the remainder of the set and match.

The Cowgirls extended their lead to 12-4, largely on the play of Mckenzie Jonas, who had five kills and a block during the decisive stretch.

Jonas finished the match with 10 kills on just 16 attempts as she hit at a .625 percentage. Jonas also had three blocks in the match and was a perfect 5-5 from the service line.

Jonas was not the only Cowgirl to play a great match. As a team, the Cowgirls went 59-62 from the service line with 11 aces. Jaycee Villastrigo was a perfect 17-17 from the service line with four aces, while Kendall Maycutt went 20-21 with four aces and Ossenkop was 11-11 with an ace.

Liz Barker, Stafford and Maycutt each finished with six kills, while Barker added three blocks and Ossenkop finished with two. Villastrigo finished the match with 17 digs, while Stafford added eight. Jenny McKinnon led the Cowgirl offensive attack with 24 assists while Jacey Ramos came off the bench to contribute with seven assists.

On Saturday, the Redmond Panthers were fired up and on an emotional high, playing in front of spectators for the first time this season, on senior night.

Crook County jumped out to an early lead in set one, opening an 8-1 lead on a tip by Stafford. However, the Panthers battled back, closing to within a point on numerous occasions before dropping the match on a service error.

Crook County took control early in the second set and never looked back as they rolled to a 17-4 lead. Late in the set, the Cowgirls began to substitute, as they cruised to the 25-9 win. The third set was a different matter. Redmond jumped on top 1-0, and still led 9-7 midway through the set. However, the Cowgirls quickly flexed their muscle with Jonas blasting a kill and picking up an ace, while Maycutt ripped four kills as Crook County took control of the match, running off nine of the next 10 points as they took a 16-10 lead.

From then on, it was all Crook County as the Cowgirls improved their record to 6-0 in Intermountain Conference play and 9-1 overall. The only team to beat the Cowgirls this year was Sisters, in the Cowgirls' second match of the year, following just a handful of full-team practice hours due to COVID protocols.

Against Redmond, once again, Crook County did much of the damage from the service line, going 61-66 with 21 aces. Villastrigo was a perfect 17-17, but this time she had eight aces. Maycutt went 21-22 with six aces, while Jonas went 12-13 with four aces.

Jonas and Maycutt each finished with eight kills for the Cowgirls, while Barker added five. Villastrigo finished with 13 digs, while McKinnon added eight digs and 24 assists.

Crook County has a busy week ahead. The Cowgirls host the Pendleton Buckaroos, 4-3 in league and 7-4 overall, in a 5 p.m. match today, play at Ridgeview at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, then host The Dalles, 1-6, 1-7, on Saturday in a match that is tentatively scheduled for 2 p.m.

Thursday's match with Ridgeview could well decide the league title. Crook County defeated the Ravens in four sets on March 20. Under normal circumstances, that means that should the Cowgirls defeat Pendleton and The Dalles as expected, Crook County could finish no worse than with a tie for first place in the conference.

However, Hood River Valley failed to play one match with the Cowgirls due to COVID, so Ridgeview has one more league game than Crook County. That could wind up being the tiebreaker should Ridgeview win the second match between the two Class 5A powerhouses. The Ravens are currently 6-1 in league and 9-3 overall.

The league has tentatively scheduled a league playoff for the OSAA cumulative week with the first and second place teams getting byes in the opening round, then hosting second-round matches later in the week. That could change, however, as there is some push to still try to have a state championship, something that at least Class 4A appears ready to do, without OSAA assistance.

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