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After going down two sets, Crook County roars back to take volleyball match; Sisters tournament provides highs and lows

LON AUSTIN  - Joann McKinnon (7) pops a shot over two Riverhawk defenders during the Cowgirls' five-set win over The Dalles. It's been a bit of an up and down year for the Crook County High School volleyball team.

This week the team saw some of those highs as well as some lows.

The Cowgirls opened the league season with a hard-fought five-set home victory over The Dalles Thursday night, then made it to the gold bracket at the Sisters Invitational Volleyball Tournament, before being eliminated from the tournament in a sub-par effort against Mazama High School.

Thursday the Cowgirls jumped on top 4-0 in the first set. However, the Riverhawks came screaming back. The Dalles tied the set 11-11, then took the lead for good at 16-16. From there, The Dalles slowly pulled away as they took a 25-19 first set win.

The Cowgirls were once again unable to hold a lead in set two. Crook County's last lead came at 19-17 on a kill by Cylie Hartzell. However, once again, the Riverhawks rebounded, taking a 26-24 win in the set.

Crook County juggled their lineup in the third set and jumped out to an early lead. This time Crook County was able to hold onto the lead as they pulled away to take a 25-15 win. From that point on it was all Cowgirls as Crook County won set four 25-16 and set five 15-8.

"Way to come back," head coach Kristy Struck told her team following the match. "I don't think we have ever had a team come back from down 2-0, at least not for a long time. It was a total team effort, and that's huge."

The Cowgirls found a way to win despite not always playing their best. The team, which usually makes more than 90 percent of their serves, hit just 84 percent with 17 service errors in the match. They also had a sub-par hitting effort. Still, Crook County did just enough to find a way to win. Callie Winebarger finished the night with five aces while McKenzie Jonas and Danner Hemphill each had four aces and Jaycee Villastrigo and Joann McKinnon both had three.

Jonas led the team in kills with 22 while Lillimae Brumble added 10 and Cylie Hartzell finished with three. Villastrigo picked up 22 digs while McKinnon added seven and Jonas six. Jonas also had five blocks on the night.

"We struggled at the beginning, but we were fighting for every point," said Villastrigo. "We came all the way back and everybody started working as a team and getting better. We were doing all the little things right. We just need to come out strong every match with lots of energy and work as a team."

Sisters Tournament

On Saturday, the Cowgirls once again got off to a slow start. In pool play the team beat Stayton 25-21, 22-25, 25-19, then whipped Catlin Gabel 25-19, 25-16, 25-15.

Despite not always playing their best, the team still went 5-1 in pool play and looked like they were starting to roll.

However, Crook County struggled again in the first round of play in the gold bracket, falling to Mazama 25-21, 24-26, 15-10.

Once again, the team struggled with serving percentage. Although Crook County had 42 aces on the day, the team also had 26 service errors.

Jonas led the team from the service line, going 42-45 with 11 aces. Jaycee Villastrigo also had a solid day at the service line going 35-37 with seven aces.

Jonas led the team offensively with 33 kills, while Brumble added 18 kills McKinnon 12 and Hartzell eight. As expected, Villastrigo led the team defensively with 46 digs while Jonas had 17 and McKennon 11.

Burns defeated Sisters, then Mazama and finally Valley Catholic to win the tournament, while Crook County finished in a tie for fifth.

Following the win over The Dalles, Crook County moved all the way up to fourth in the OSAA power rankings. However, they dropped back down to ninth following the loss to Mazama. With pool play not counting in a team's records or in the power rankings, the Cowgirls are now just 4-3 on the season.

Crook County plays at Molalla, 6-3, 1-0, tonight, then hosts Gladstone, 0-8, 0-1, at 6:30 p.m. Thursday before traveling to Albany on Saturday for the South Albany State Preview Tournament.

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