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Two matches and two thrillers against Ridgeview Ravens and Redmond Panthers

LON AUSTIN - Alexys Wells goes to the floor to keep a point alive for the Cowgirls during their five-set loss to Ridgeview in Prineville Sept. 28. Two days later, the Cowgirls were in another five-set battle, but beat Redmond.

It was an interesting week for the Crook County High School volleyball team. Tuesday, the Cowgirls dropped a tight five-set thriller, 20-25, 25-21, 21-25, 35-23, 15-10, to the Ridgeview Ravens. Then, on Wednesday, the team learned that the Mt. Hood Invitational, which they were scheduled to play in on Saturday at Barlow High School, had been canceled due to COVID. The team tried unsuccessfully to find someone to play over the weekend, before closing out the week with another five-set thriller, this time earning a come from behind, 18-25, 18-25, 25-22, 25-20, 15-10, victory over the Redmond Panthers.

Tuesday at home, the Cowgirls and Ravens battled and fought for every single point. Playing before a raucous crowd, the first set was tied five times before Crook County finally edged ahead and took control of the set. Set two was once again close, with four ties before Ridgeview finally pulled ahead for the 4-point win. Set three looked like Ridgeview was in control as they jumped out to a 6-0 lead. However, Crook County slowly battled back into the match, tying things up 11-11. From that point, there were seven more ties before the Cowgirls finally took the lead for good.

Crook County could have put the game away for good in the fourth set when they pulled out to an 18-14 lead. However, Ridgeview came storming back, tying the set at 20 points apiece, and eventually taking the 2-point win.

Ridgeview served first in the fifth set and opened up a huge 13-0 lead before the Cowgirls were finally able to side out. Crook County battled back to make the final score interesting but could get no closer than 13-10 before the Ravens were able to side out and then close out the match.

"It's really fun playing in an atmosphere like that," said Crook County middle blocker McKenzie Jonas. "I think that a lot of people find it distracting, but once you are in the game, that's the only thing that you focus on. I think there were times where we struggled, but I think that at the end, we really fought back, and we wanted it."

Kendall Maykut led Crook County in kills with 23 while Jonas had 22 and Josie Kasberger finished with 7. Jenna Albrecht led Ridgeview in kills with 20.

Jaycee Villastrigo led the Cowgirls from the service line, going 27-28 with two aces, while Kasberger was 18-0 with on ace and Maykut went 14-0 with three aces. Jonas led the Cowgirls with four blocks, while the team had a season high nine. Villastrigo led Crook County in digs with 19, while Jenny McKinnon finished with 12, Kasberger added nine and Maykut finished with eight.

McKinnon led the Cowgirls in assists with 52.

Thursday in Redmond, the Cowgirls took an early lead in the first set but were unable to maintain the momentum. With Crook County leading 10-9, Maykut was forced to the bench with a physical problem.

With Maykut on the bench, the Cowgirls struggled as Redmond took the lead and pulled away to win the first set by seven.

With Maykut still on the bench, Crook County stayed close early in the second set, but Redmond took the lead for good at 10-9 and once again slowly pulled away for a 7-point win.

With their backs to the wall, Crook County put 5-foot, 4-inch Jacey Ramoss in as an outside hitter against the much taller Redmond squad, and the tactic worked as Crook County came back to win the third set by 3 points to stay alive in the match. In set four, Redmond jumped out to an early lead, finally building a 5-point lead at 15-10.

After a timeout, Maykut returned to the match and immediately hit an ace. Crook County tied the match at 17 apiece, then took the lead for good at 18-17 on an ace by McKinnon.

With their confidence restored and holding the momentum, Crook County jumped out to a 12-6 lead in the fifth and final set and held on to win the set 15-10.

"Oh, it was so fun," Kasberger said. "Those are the best – when it is actually a game. It was competitive. We were not playing to our full capacity, and then we just came out and decided this is when we are going to start, and it definitely showed going into the third and fourth sets."

Jonas led the Cowgirls with 18 kills while Kasberger finished with 16. No other Cowgirl had more than four kills.

Aspen Bradley finished with 16 kills for the Panthers, while Rilea Mills finished with 13.

Kasberger was 14-15 from the service line with a pair of aces, while McKinnon went 21-22 with eight aces. Villastrigo and Mattee Simmons also had good nights from the service line, going 12-13 with a pair of aces and 20-22 also with a pair of aces, respectively.

Jonas finished with four blocks, while McKinnon had 44 assists. Villastrigo led Crook County's defense with 23 digs, while McKinnon had 11 and Kasberger eight.

"Tonight was super important," Kasberger said. "It definitely decides our placement for league because we want to take the league championship and then it is important going into the state tournament because it decides our placing and whether we get home or away games and who we will play."

Crook County is now 4-1 in Intermountain Conference play and 8-4 overall. Crook County dropped to ninth in the OSAA power rankings with the loss to Ridgeview but moved back up to seventh with the victory over Redmond. Meanwhile, Ridgeview improved to 5-0 in league and 9-3 overall, while Redmond dropped to 3-2 in league and 12-6 overall.

The Cowgirls return to the court on Thursday when they go on the road to take on The Dalles, 1-4, 6-7, in a 6:30 p.m. match. Following that match, Crook County will travel to Bend on Saturday to compete in the Clearwater Classic, possibly the toughest tournament in the state all year. Matches will be played at Summit, Mountain View and Bend high schools.

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