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Crook County Cowgirls missing some key players early in the season, still looking to jell

LON AUSTIN - Josie Kasberger smacks a kill shot during the Cowgirls' win over Philomath Thursday in Prineville. The short-handed Cowgirls got by Philomath in three sets but fell to Sisters in three on Saturday.

The Crook County High School volleyball team split a pair of matches this past week, defeating Philomath, 25-18, 25-18, 30-28, at home on Thursday, before falling to Sisters, 26-24, 25-17, 25-17 on the road on Saturday.

"We have been missing some key players and some of our athletes are playing out of position, but we are doing some really great things on and off the court," said Crook County head coach Kristy Struck following Saturday's match. "Our girls have been working to improve every practice and make changes; we are starting to see that reflected in their match play."

It was a difficult week for the Cowgirls as they missed two days of practice and had their match with Sisters moved from Tuesday to Saturday due to precautions concerning COVID-19. Still, when all was said and done, things could have been worse as the team could easily have lost more than just two practices.

Playing against Philomath with just one day of practice since playing Burns a week ago Saturday, the Cowgirls struggled early, falling behind 9-4 in set one before regrouping and eventually taking control of the match. Crook County still trailed 16-18 late in the set before scoring the final nine points of the set.

Set two was close throughout with nine ties in the set before the Cowgirls pulled away late for the seven-point win. It looked like the Cowgirls had things rolling in the third set as they rolled out to a 9-1 lead. However, Philomath battled back, finally tying the set at 22-22. The two teams then traded points the remainder of the set with both teams having a chance to win before the Cowgirls finally outlasted the Warriors, taking a 30-28 win and a straight-set victory.

"It was very, very important to win those close sets," Crook County setter Jenny McKinnon said. "Our team goal was that we win all games in three sets, and that's all there is to it. We need to be getting out ahead early, doing all the fundamentals and not letting up."

As happened in their opening match at Burns, the Cowgirls did much of their damage from the service line as the team combined for 21 aces in the match. Individually, McKenzie Jonas went 17-18 with seven aces, while Josie Kasberger went 14-16 with five aces. Jacey Ramoss, Jaycee Villastrigo and McKinnon each had three aces in the match.

Offensively, Jonas finished with 13 kills while Kasberger added 11. Defensively, Villastrigo finished with 27 digs while Jonas and Mattee Simmons each added seven. McKinnon led the Cowgirls in assists with 26.

Saturday at Sisters the Cowgirls were able to stay close the first set, before finally falling 26-24. Crook County fought hard the remainder of the match, but fell in straight sets to the Outlaws.

Still, there were some positives for the Cowgirls.

"We did a lot of good things today," Struck said. "Our defense was not up to par, but we hit better than we have been."

Jonas finished with a team-high 14 kills, while Kasberger added 11 and freshman Cylie Hartzell added three.

Kasberger went 13-14 from the service line with four aces, while Jonas went 11-12 with an ace. Joann McKinnon was a perfect 10-10 from the line with three aces while Jenny McKinnon went 9-0 and Jaycee Villastrigo went a perfect 8-8 from the service line.

Villastrigo also led the Cowgirls in digs with 16 while Jenny McKinnon led the team in assists with 28.

The Cowgirls play a pair of road matches on Thursday, playing at Marist Catholic at 4:30 p.m., then playing Hidden Valley, also at Marist, at 6 p.m.

The team then has a week off before hosting The Dalles in the league opener on Thursday, Sept. 16.

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