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After nearly pulling off the big upset over No. 1 seed, Crook County beats Tillamook and Henley to capture trophy

LON AUSTIN  - The Crook County Cowgirls celebrate Saturday, Nov. 5 after beating Henley and taking fourth place in the 4A State Volleyball Tournament. The Crook County Cowgirls rallied from a tough loss in Friday's quarterfinals to win their next two matches and finish fourth in the OSAA Class 4A State Volleyball Championships, which were held Friday and Saturday at Springfield High School.

"Our girls showed up to the tournament with a plan," Crook County head coach Kristy Struck said. "They believed in the plan, believed in themselves and believed in the work they put in day in and day out."

Friday morning the Cowgirls lost a five-set thriller to the No. 1 seed and eventual state champion Marshfield Pirates, 25-19, 21-25, 21-25, 25-17, 15-8.

The Cowgirls looked sluggish in the first set Saturday morning in the consolation round, but regrouped as they defeated Tillamook in straight sets, 29-27, 25-15, 25-19. Then in the fourth-place match, Crook County overcame a series of mistakes to take a dramatic five-set victory over the Henley Hornets, 25-18, 18-25, 17-25, 25-22, 16-14.

Marshfield had lost just one set to a 4A school all season prior to Friday morning when the Cowgirls gave them everything they could handle. The match probably determined the eventual state championship as Marshfield did not drop a set the remainder of the tournament, defeating last year's state champion Cascade in straight sets in the final.

The Cowgirls got off to a slow start in the first set against Marshfield, falling behind 7-0 early. Crook County rallied to tie the match 11-11 before Marshfield pulled away again. After trailing 18-12, the Cowgirls staged a late rally, but came up short as the Pirates held on to take the set.

However, the Cowgirls rebounded to take the second and third sets, and appeared to have all the momentum heading into set four. Crook County led early in the fourth before Marshfield had a surge in the middle of the set to take control. Crook County once again took an early lead in set five, but were unable to hold it as Marshfield survived to advance in the championship bracket.

Led by McKenzie Jonas with 25 kills and Lillimae Brumble with 11, the Cowgirls had 43 kills to 35 for the Pirates. Marshfield was led by Bridget Gould with 18 kills. Meanwhile, led by Tatum Montiel with eight, the Pirates finished with 18 aces compared to 16 for the Cowgirls who got four aces each from Jaycee Villastrigo, Jacey Ramoss and Callie Winebarger.

Despite winning the offensive battle, Crook County lost because of mistakes, committing 22 hitting errors to just nine for Marshfield and 14 service errors to just eight for Marshfield.

Still, Crook County stayed in the match until the final point because of a solid defensive effort.

"I'm really proud of us for fighting to five sets with them, especially since they are the number one team," Jonas said. "We didn't really know what to expect coming in there because we hadn't seen them play all year, but overall we won two games and I'm really proud of us."

After playing such a long match on Friday, the Cowgirls struggled early against the Cheesemakers. Although Crook County led much of the set, they could never pull away from Tillamook. Nonetheless, the Cowgirls were able to take the two-point win. Crook County was in control the remainder of the match as they rolled into the fourth-place match.

That match had a little of everything. Ramoss, the Cowgirl setter, had a migraine she tried to tough through. The Cowgirls won set one 25-18, but struggled to score in the second set once Jonas was in the back row. That problem continued the remainder of the match with wild scoring sprees as Crook County would surge followed by a Henley surge. Henley won the second and third sets and had a lead in the fourth set before the Cowgirls rallied to score six of the final eight points in the set to eke out a win, despite Ramoss being called for an uncharacteristic five ball handling errors in the set.

"It was really hard," Ramoss said. "I felt like I was going to puke the whole time. I just had to remember that I have to power through it for everyone else."

That's exactly what Ramoss did. With Ramoss and Jonas leading the way, the Cowgirls jumped out to a 10-5 lead early in the fifth set, before Jonas once again rotated to the back row. Henley staged a furious rally, scoring seven consecutive points to take a 12-10 lead. The Cowgirls tied the match on a kill by Cylie Hartzell, but Henley scored the next two points to reach match point. However, Jonas finally rotated to the front row and had three kills in the final four points as the Cowgirls closed out the set and the match.

"it was pretty stressful but I also knew that we could do it and just had to calm down a bit," Ramoss said of the come-from-behind victory. "We just had to do the things that we know — go back to the little things and control what we can control."

McKenzie Jonas had a monster day for the Cowgirls, picking up 25 kills against Tillamook and 33 against Henley to lead the Cowgirls. Jonas also had five aces between the two matches as well as 29 digs and three blocks.

After finishing with 86 kills in just three matches, Jonas was named to the all-tournament first team.

Although Jonas was outstanding throughout, she was far from the only Cowgirl to have a great tournament.

Jaycee Villastrigo had 16 digs against Tillamook and 25 against Henley to give her 73 for three games. Villastrigo also had three aces in both the Tillamook and Henley matches, and was named to the all-tournament second team.

Ramoss also had an outstanding tournament with 118 assists in the three matches as well as 12 aces. Like Villastrigo, Ramoss was named to the all-tournament second team.

In addition to the individual recognition and the fourth-place trophy, Crook County also earned the tournament sportsmanship award.

Besides Ramoss and Jonas, the Cowgirls had two other seniors on the roster. Abby Barker was the Cowgirls manager a year ago, but switched from manager to player for her final season, and played a pivotal role for the Cowgirls with her blocking and solid defense.

"The only thing different is actually playing the games because I practiced a lot last year. It's just not that different," Barker said. "It was a great experience. I love my teammates and they are just the best people. I'm glad that we placed fourth. We should have placed first, but I'm happy with fourth."

The final senior, Petra Becker, played on the JV team all year. Becker traveled to the state tournament, but was not on the playing roster.

"It's hard playing JV as a senior, but I feel like everyone included me as much as they could in team activities," Becker said. "It was definitely a different experience than all the other seniors had, but I still loved it. I cheered every point. I love these girls with all my heart, so I'm so glad to be here."

According to Struck, it was that attitude that made the Cowgirls a successful team this year.

"The things this team accomplished this season are admirable and worthy of the Cowgirl legacy," she said. "A legacy is not built by winning every game but rather, it is cultivated. These girls showed up when it was hard, when they were tired, or hurt, or after they fell short of their goals and gave us their very best effort playing for something bigger than themselves. After the game if I had said, I will see you in the gym on Monday for practice, they would have smiled, put their knee pads on and laced up their shoes. I have made a habit of saying how proud I am of this team and this time is no different. I am proud of these young women. I am also proud of this community. Nothing makes me more proud than to have a volleyball fan at a tournament ask me where the Cowgirls are from. The students at CCHS put Prineville on the map."

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