By Brian Rathbone

The Bulletin

REDMOND — The final score showed a three-set sweep for No. 4 Crook County over Redmond, but it’s a match that second-year Cowgirls coach Kristy Struck wants to forget.

The Cowgirls survived a rally in the first set to win 25-20, outlasted the Panthers 25-22 in a tight second set, then dominated the third set in an Intermountain Conference volleyball matchup Thursday night at Redmond High.

“We just came out a little tired, we didn’t have a great practice last night, a lot of instructions, not a solid practice and we played liked we practiced,” Struck said.

The Cowgirls (4-1 IMC) were cruising early and built a 15-5 lead in the first set. Then the Panthers (0-5) pounced, rolling off nine consecutive points. Yet the Cowgirls were still able to close out the set to take a 1-0 advantage.

In the second set, Redmond was in control, winning six of the first 10 points. The Panthers led Crook County 12-9 and matched the Cowgirls point for point, tying the set at 16, 18, 19, 20 and 21.

“I think we made a lot of mistakes and a lot of errors that we shouldn’t have been making,” said Crook County senior middle blocker Kenna Woodward, who finished with a team-high nine kills. “We had some hitting errors, just silly ones like hitting into the net. We should have been able to take care of the ball.”

In the end, it was Crook County that survived the set, outscoring Redmond 4-2 down to stretch to take a 2-0 advantage.

Errors by Crook County and steady play by Redmond were the common themes throughout the first two sets. The Panthers also frustrated the Cowgirls with their ability to get blocks at the net, Woodward said. But it was the errors that stood out.

“(Redmond) just played consistent ball and when you play consistent you are going to stay in the ballgame,” Struck said. “Rally scoring benefits the team that makes the fewest errors and we made a ton of errors, especially in that second game. You cannot continue to make error after error and expect to win games consistently.”

Crook County put an end to any chance of a Redmond comeback in the third set, scoring the first four points, then building a double-digit lead on its way to a 25-14 win. It was the Cowgirls’ best set of the night.

“It was much better in the third set,” Struck said. “They were getting to the right positions, they were playing with better energy, better transitions and just keeping the errors down.”

Thursday’s match was the second of the season against a top-five-ranked opponent for Redmond. Panthers coach Aaron Mallory said after Thursday’s match that when his team hosted Ridgeview last week, it played scared against the highly rated Ravens. The second go-around against a 5A powerhouse told a different story, especially after Crook County had delivered an early punch in the first set.

“In that regard we were hugely improved,” Mallory said. “I think we started out that way and they got a big lead in that first game, but for us to find some life and come back was really, really nice. I think that was a sign of them realizing ‘Hey, this is still volleyball, we can do this.’”

With the win Thursday, Crook County stayed a game behind Ridgeview (5-0) for the top spot in the conference, while Redmond is still in search of its first conference victory.

Both teams will play in tournaments on Saturday, with Crook County at the Mt. Hood Invitational in Gresham and Redmond at the Hood River Valley Varsity Invite.

— Reporter: 541-383-0307; brathbone@bendbulletin.com

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