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It was a busy week for Crook County volleyball with a league game and a weekend tourney

LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Crook County players Alexys Wells, Jenny McKinnon and Danner Hemphill celebrate during their four-set win over The Dalles.The Crook County High School volleyball team had a busy week, opening the league season and playing in their first tournament since 2019.

Thursday, at home, the Cowgirls overcame a slow start against The Dalles to take a hard-fought 24-26, 25-13, 25-17, 25-11, four-set victory over the Riverhawks.

Then on Saturday, at the Rogue Valley Classic, the Cowgirls finished second in their pool to reach the gold bracket before falling to the eventual champion Bend Lava Bears in the tournament quarterfinals.

Thursday looked like it would be a Crook County route early in set one as the Cowgirls rolled out to a 12-5 lead. Although the Cowgirls led most of the set, The Dalles finally tied the set 23-23 before going on to take the set 26-24.

The two teams were tied 6-6 in the second set before Crook County finally got rolling, outscoring the Riverhawks 19-7 the remainder of the set. From that point on, it was all Cowgirls as Crook County rolled to victory in the league opener for both teams.

"We started being mindful," outside hitter Kendall Maykut said of the team dropping the first set, then winning three in a row. "In the first set, we had a lot of errors and then in the sets to come we were more mindful about what we were doing and we were good about fixing errors."

The Cowgirls did much of their damage in the match at the service line, going 89-98 with 20 aces. Josie Kasberger went 15-15 from the service line with four aces, while Maykut went 16-17 with an ace, Jenny McKinnon was 19-20 with three aces and Joann McKinnon was 14-15 with three aces.

Kasberger and Maykut led Crook County in kills with 15 and 16, respectively, while McKenzie Jonas had eight and Cylie Hartzell chipped in with six.

Jenny McKinnon led the Cowgirls in assists with 46, while Kasberger had 21 digs and Alexys Wells finished with 20.

Rogue Valley Classic

Heading into Saturday's tournament, the Cowgirls had big goals.

"Our team's goal is to win our pool and then advance on to the gold bracket where we can try our best to win that as well," Maykut said. "We are holding back and we need to just be confident and play to the best of our abilities."

Although the team did not win their pool, they did make it to the gold bracket at the 16-team tournament.

Once again, the Cowgirls got off to a bit of a slow start in the tournament opener against Eagle Point. Crook County slowly pulled away in the opening set for an 25-17 win. In the second set against Eagle Point, Crook County got things rolling, cruising to a 25-9 win. The Cowgirls edged Ashland 25-21, 27-25 in their second match of pool play, before falling to pool winner McNary 25-11, 25-18 in their final pool match of the day.

Finishing second in pool play qualified the Cowgirls for the gold bracket, but it also meant that they had to play No. 1 seed Bend in the tournament quarterfinals. The Lava Bears turned out to be too much for the Cowgirls as they wore Crook County down, taking a 25-19, 25-6 win. Bend then went on to defeat South Medford and McNary, also in straight sets, to win the tournament.

Head coach Kristy Struck said that the Cowgirls got tired as the tournament went on.

"I am proud of how they fought for every point today," she said. "They were exhausted. The lack of play last year made the journey today more difficult, but they gave me and each other everything they had."

Despite playing eight sets on the day, Crook County had just 12 aces, compared to 20 in four sets Thursday against The Dalles.

Kasberger was a perfect 28-28 from the service line, but had just one ace. Maykut went 24-27 from the line with three aces, while Joann McKinnon was 29-33 with four aces.

Jonas led the Cowgirls in kills with 21, while Kasberger and Maykut each finished with 16 and Hartzell added five.

It was on defense that Crook County was able to overcome some hitting and serving struggles. As a team, Crook County had 112 digs. Wells led the defensive effort with 33 digs, while Joann McKinnon had 19, Kasberger 17 and Maykut 16.

Jenny McKinnon directed the Cowgirl offense, getting 57 assists in the four matches.

The Cowgirls (5-2) have their busiest week yet this coming week. The team hosts Hood River Valley (3-5) tonight, travels to Pendleton (2-4) on Thursday, then plays in a tournament at South Albany on Saturday.

Both league matches are scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m., while the Albany tournament begins at 8 a.m.

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