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District meet set for Crook County High School to take on The Dalles on Wednesday

LON AUSTIN - Crook County celebrates after the final point in their victory over Ridgeview in the Intermountain Conference tournament championship game.

The Crook County Cowgirls are conference champions.

After winning the regular season, the Cowgirl volleyball team defeated The Dalles, 25-11, 25-12, 25-18, on Thursday, and Ridgeview, 19-25, 25-17, 25-18, 25-20, Saturday to win the Intermountain Conference tournament.

"The excitement, it was crazy," said Kacie Stafford, one of just three seniors on the Cowgirl roster. "The first set we came out with excitement, but then we just kind of lost it. But those final three sets, that was our goal, was the excitement and the energy and I think that helped us win."

The Dalles defeated Hood River Valley on Monday to advance to the conference semifinals, while Crook County had a bye into the second round of the tournament. Meanwhile, Ridgeview, which also had a bye in the opening round, slipped past Pendleton to reach the conference championship.

The Cowgirls got off to a slow start Wednesday as The Dalles took a 2-0 lead in the opening set. After the two teams were tied 3-3, the Cowgirls went on a roll outscoring the Riverhawks 22-9 the remainder of the set. The Riverhawks jumped out in front once again, to start the second set, but once again, Crook County quickly took control, scoring 10 of the final 12 points as they ran away from the Riverhawks. The third set saw the Cowgirls take control early, jumping out to a 15-2 lead before The Dalles responded with a late run. Still, the Riverhawks never got closer than seven points again as Crook County cruised to the easy win.

McKenzie Jonas finished with 14 kills and a pair of blocks in the match, while Kendall Maykut added 10, and Kacie Stafford 7. Jaycee Villastrigo went 13-14 from the service line with four aces, while Stafford went 18-19 with three aces. Villastrigo and Stafford each picked up 11 digs in the match.

Ridgeview was a different story. The opening set was tied 8-8 when Ridgeview went on a 5-0 run to take a 13-8 lead. The Cowgirls pulled to within two points three times later in the set but could get no closer as Ridgeview held on to win the set.

Crook County rebounded to take a back-and-forth second set that saw four ties and five lead changes before the Cowgirls took control late outscoring the Ravens 8-2 down the stretch. Crook County never trailed in the third set, but that doesn't mean that it was easy. After the Cowgirls scored the first seven points of the set, Ridgeview rebounded to tie the match 7-7. The Cowgirls still led by just a point at 15-14, before once again going on a late run to take the set.

The Ravens jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the fourth and final set, but Crook County quickly came back, tying the set at 4-4, then scoring the next three points to run out to a 7-4 lead. Crook County eventually stretched their lead to 23-13 before the Ravens went on a late run to make the final score close. Leading just 24-20, the Cowgirls called a late timeout, then closed out the match on a Stafford kill.

"I am just so proud of how they played together," head coach Kristi Struck said of her team. "What a team effort. They never let a ball drop. Our communication was up and down a little bit, but the second they start to communicate again, they pick up their play. It's fun to watch this team play together and be a family."

The Cowgirls did much of the damage from the service line against the Ravens, going 74-76 from the service line with nine aces.

Jenny McKinnon was a perfect 23-23 from the line with four aces. Stafford went 16-16 from the service line, while Josie Kasberger was also perfect from the line, going 12-12 with three aces. Syrie Ossenkop also had a great night from the service line, going 16-17 with a pair of aces.

Maykut led the Cowgirls in kills with a season-high 17, while Jonas and Ossenkop each finished with seven, and Liz Barker chipped in with six.

Stafford led the team in digs with 25, while Villastrigo finished with 20. Jonas added a pair of blocks, while Barker finished with three.

"It was so rewarding," Stafford said of the win. "It's everything. We are so close this season. We all love each other, and we are just family. We couldn't do it without our coaches."

With the pair of victories, Crook County closes out the season with a 13-2 record, while Ridgeview finishes with a 13-5 record.

Although the Cowgirls were pleased to finish the season with a win, it was still something of a bittersweet ending to the season. Although they were unsanctioned by the OSAA, Class 4A, 3A, 2A and 1A all had unofficial state playoffs, while Class 5A and 6A did not.

"Other than Ridgeview, we got only one tough game all season," Struck said. "So for us to come out and play like that makes me so proud. Where could this team have been if we had had the big tournaments. To me, other than Ridgeview and Wilsonville, there's nobody else in 5A. I just wish we could have had a regular season."

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