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Hard-fought matches at Crook County, Molalla give the Buffs long-term optimism.

LON AUSTIN/FOR THE PIONEER - Despite losing to Crook County in straight sets Tuesday, Sept. 26, Madras setter Niyallee Cochran (above)said afterwards, "None of us are down. We played our hardest."
The score looks like it was an easy Crook County win, but nothing could be farther from the truth.

The Madras White Buffalos gave the Cowgirls all they could handle in a key Tri-Valley Conference volleyball matchup Tuesday, Sept. 26 in Crook County.

To be sure, the score looked like it was all Crook County, as the Cowgirls took a 25-9, 25-9, 25-18 straight-set victory.

However, the score doesn't even begin to tell the story.

The White Buffalos battled tooth and nail for every point, creating long rallies and making the Cowgirls earn every point that they got.

"I just want to say that Madras is much improved," said Crook County head coach Rosie Honl. "They have come a long way from where they were at the Summit Jamboree. They were fighting and fighting, and they kept battling us."

Madras middle blocker Ally Dominiak agreed.

"We kept up with Crook County," she said proudly. "We tried our hardest and we played so good. We had good communication and good attitudes. We are not disappointed with our loss; we are proud of how we played."

The first point of the match was a clue for just how tough the match was going to be. The ball crossed the net 15 times before the Cowgirls finally scored on a Kerigan Waibel kill.

Although not all of the rallies were that long, the White Buffalos scrapped and fought, making the Cowgirls earn every point that they got.

Led by kills from Waibel and Raegan Wilkins, the Cowgirls pulled out to a 6-0 lead before Madras was finally able to score.

Crook County continued to extend their lead to 16-3. However, after a timeout, the White Buffalos found a way to score as they were outscored just 9-6 down the stretch.

The White Buffalos scored the first point of set two on a kill by Jessica Olivera. However, the Cowgirls rebounded behind the serving of Mekynzie Wells, and Kennedy Buckner as they pulled out to a 6-2 lead.

Crook County continued to serve tough, picking up 10 aces in the set as they once again pulled away for a 25-9 win.

By midway through the second set, the Cowgirls had begun to substitute freely and the White Buffalos took advantage early in the third set.

Madras pulled out to a 4-0 lead on an ace by Niyallee Cochran, a pair of Crook County errors, and a kill by Loraija Miller.

"Oh gosh, I'm speechless," Cochran said after the match. "None of us are down. We played our hardest. They had some good plays, but we tried our hardest and we were scrappy. Good game to everybody."

The Cowgirls regrouped, tying the match at 6-6 on a Cassidy Dill kill.

However, the White Buffalos answered with a point of their own to regain the lead.

Crook County tied the match again at 7-7, then took the lead for good on an Anna Woodward ace that made the score 8-7.

With Crook County serving tough, they extended their lead to 16-9. However, the White Buffalos refused to go quietly, fighting to the end as each team scored nine of the final 18 points in the match.

Honl was pleased with the effort that she saw, noting that the team was able to play everyone in both the second and third sets and still come away with a comfortable win.

Freshman Kacie Stafford was also pleased with the Cowgirls' performance.

"It was kind of exciting," she said. "We usually don't get everyone in, so it's nice for the people that don't get to play much. It was fun. We let them come back a little bit too much, but it was good."

For the Cowgirls, Dill finished with seven kills on just nine attempts, while Wilkins and Waibel each added six kills.

Dominiak led the White Buffalos in kills with three, while Olivera, Miller and Kiersten Anderson each had two.

However, it was from the service line that the Cowgirls really took control, finishing with 21 aces as a team to just one for the White Buffalos.

Waibel was also 14-14 from the service line with four aces, while Wells went 17-19 with five aces and Kenna Woodward was 13-14 with four aces.

Wells also led the Cowgirls defensively with 18 digs in 18 attempts, while Anna Woodward led the team in assists with 12.

Madras took one set at Molalla last Thursday (27-25), though it eventually lost the match 3-1.

The Buffs then traveled to the Junction City Invitational last Saturday, where they lost a best-of-three match to Elmira, 2-0.

Madras will face Gladstone at home Thursday at 6 p.m., in a rematch of a 3-2 comeback victory that Madras claimed at Gladstone on Sept. 18

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