Playoffs end for Cowgirls in three games
Crook County wins game one, Ashland responds in games two and threeIt was an emotional rollercoaster ride, similar to the Cowgirls' up and down regular season.
On Halloween night at the CCHS gym, any aspirations the Crook County volleyball players had at moving on in the state playoffs were erased by Ashland in a thrilling three-game battle which clocked in at just under two hours.
With two bleachers scattered with hometown fans -- many complete in costume -- the stage was set.
Crook County students started the wave several times and candy was thrown into the stands off and on by fans as if a pi¤ata has just been clobbered open.
In the end, the Grizzlies, tied for 10th in the latest state rankings, netted the 13-15, 15-8, 15-12 win and earned the chance to move on in sub-tournament play to face Sheldon Friday in Eugene for a 3 p.m. matchup.
"I definitely think it was a factor," said Ashland head coach Josh Rohlfing, about the Crook County crowd. "We came yesterday, stayed the night in Sunriver and sat around all day. It's a tough place to play, it's really noisy here and they're great. They have a great crowd."
In game one, Crook County came out on all cylinders and took a 7-2 lead. Ashland quietly came back within three, 7-4, but junior Nicole Kludt sent a spike over the net from the left side to the right to give back possession to the Cowgirls.
"A couple of times, we just couldn't contend with a couple of their hitters," Rohlfing said. "We missed a lot of serves and we made a lot of mistakes."
As the opening game moved along, Ashland caught up with CC 8-8 and neither team could shake away the other with a commanding lead from that point on.
With the Cowgirls leading 14-13 and the crowd on its feet, junior Toni Corwin served her team to the victory as Ashland was called on a net violation.
"We served them tough," said CCHS head coach Rosie Honl. "I was really proud. That was our game plan, to serve them tough, and we hit hard. It was our best game of the season."
In game two, the Grizzlies rebounded and took an early 10-4 lead.
Leading Ashland on the night was junior middle Marla Morin, who tallied 14 kills, while senior Ashley Fence added 11.
With Anna Sheehy serving, the Cowgirls came to within three, 11-8, on a Corwin kill, but the Grizzlies answered by connecting for four straight points to force a game three.
Both teams were only one game away from moving on.
"It was kind of like Pendleton and Hermiston," Honl said. "I thought it was really intense. We were focused, but we also had smiles on our faces at different times. I think we were confident and comfortable."
Leading the Cowgirls in kills was senior Kristin Wortman, who ended the contest with 10. Kludt added six, while Corwin contributed five.
In serving, senior Chelsea Callan was a perfect 13 for 13 and one ace, while Kristin Wortman was 13 for 14 and senior Rachel Wortman was 14 for 16.
In the final game, the Cowgirls led 10-7 in a marathon contest in which sideouts were frequently won by both teams.
If game three was a Halloween costume, it would have been a turtle.
"It seemed to last an eternity, especially when we were down 7-10," Rohlfing said. "It felt like it lasted for decades."
Ashland eventually took the lead 14-12 and secured the triumph with Fence's good serve added by Morin's game-winning block.
While the Cowgirls may have ended their season in their own gym Wednesday, there was still a sense of pride felt among the Crook County players.
"I think we played really well," Callan said. "Everyone had their best game of the season. "And our crowd was great tonight. They were louder than they've ever been."