Crook County volleyball heads back to playoffs sans IMC crown
The Crook County Cowgirl volleyball team will not repeat as Intermountain Conference champions.
Playing without starting setter Jenny McKinnon, the Cowgirls were unable to get past Ridgeview on Tuesday, as the Ravens earned a straight-set victory and the league title.
Backup setter Jacey Ramoss and defensive specialist Joann McKinnon shared the setting duties for the Cowgirls, who came close in the first two sets before an ankle injury to outside hitter Kendall Maykut essentially ended the team's chances.
"I was nervous, but I have played it before, so it wasn't like I was scared," said Ramoss. "I feel like no one can replace Jenny, but I think we did good."
Joann McKinnon agreed.
"I have set in the past, so it was good," she said. "We played really good without Jenny and we were right there until Kendall got hurt."
With Maykut still out, but Jenny McKinnon back, the Cowgirls then closed out the regular season, on senior night, with a home victory over the Redmond Panthers on Thursday to wrap up second place in the IMC, and a 21st consecutive state playoff appearance.
On Tuesday against the Ravens, the Cowgirls got off to a bit of a slow start in set one, but dug their way out of a 9-3 hole and tied the set at 12-12. The two teams were still tied at 13-13 and 14-14, before the Ravens took the lead for good.
Ridgeview eventually led 22-17 before the Cowgirls made a late run, finally dropping the set 25-22. Once again, in set two, the Cowgirls were in the game early. The two teams were tied for different times before the Ravens finally took the lead for good, taking a 25-20 win.
Crook County changed their rotation for the third set, and the strategy seemed to be working. The Cowgirls jumped out to an early lead and appeared to have the momentum when Maykut sprained her ankle. With Maykut out, Crook County was forced to play 5-2 defensive specialist Alexys Wells at outside hitter and the Ravens took advantage, winning the third set 25-17.
The Cowgirls had an uncharacteristic 12 service errors in the match, hitting just over 80 percent of their serves, despite averaging more than 90 percent on the season.
Joann McKinnon was a perfect 13-13 from the service line with an ace, while McKenzie Jonas had three aces, but also had three service errors.
Jaycee Villastrigo led Crook County defensively with 26 digs while Joann McKinnon finished with 10. Ramoss and McKinnon each had 14 assists while Maykut led Crook County in kills with 14, despite playing just over two sets. Jonas added 11 kills, while Josie Kasberger finished with five kills.
With Maykut unavailable on Thursday, Crook County once again was forced to play a 5-2 athlete at outside hitter against the much taller Panthers as Ramoss went from setting on Tuesday to playing outside hitter on Thursday.
But the strategy worked. Crook County dropped the first set of the match, but rebounded to win the next three to close out the regular season on a high note with a 20-25, 25-11, 25-18, 25-20 victory over the Panthers.
After dropping the first, set the Cowgirls were nearly flawless in set two as they cruised to an easy win. Redmond tried to rebound in the next two sets, but the Cowgirls were the better team on the night as they held on for the win.
"Intensity and momentum," Kasberger, one of four Cowgirl seniors, said of how Crook County rebounded from dropping the first set.
"I'm going to miss playing with the team every day," added fellow senior Mattee Simmons. "We have been together for so long. It's sad, but it's exciting because we are going into our post season."
Jonas had a monster game against the Panthers with a career-high 28 kills. Kasberger also had a great match with 21 kills, while Ramoss and Simmon each finished with two kills.
Simmons went 15-16 from the service line, while Joann McKinnon was 17-19 with four aces, Kasberger 14-14, Villastrigo 15-16, Jonas 10-10 with an ace and Jenny McKinnon was 15-17 with three aces.
Villastrigo finished with 19 digs while Kasberger had 10 and Jenny McKinnon had 50 assists.
"Just win as many games as we can and get as far as we can," said Jenny McKinnon of the Cowgirls plans for the post season. "We have got to play hard from the start. One set our passing is bad, one set our hitting is bad. We just have to even it out and be consistent through the sets."
Crook County finishes the regular season with an 8-2 league record and a 14-7 overall mark. The 10th-ranked Cowgirls will be on the road for the first round of the state playoffs with their most likely opponents being either sixth-ranked Wilsonville, 17-4, or seventh-ranked Churchill, 15-3. The final rankings will not be posted until some time after 10 p.m. tonight as several teams are still finishing their league seasons.
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