Unless things to take a 180-degree turn, only three teams have a chance at the top-spot in the Intermountain Conference, with a couple weeks remaining in the 2018-19 5A volleyball regular season: Ridgeview, Crook County and Hood River Valley.
That race for number one in the conference standings is just about as close as it can get.
As of Friday morning, here’s how the Intermountain Conference standings looked: Ridgeview (first place, 7-1); Hood River Valley (second place, 6-2); Crook County (third place, 5-2); Pendleton (fourth place, 4-3); The Dalles (fifth place, 1-7); Redmond (sixth place, 0-8).
Before the Eagles’ home matchup against Pendleton on Oct. 11, HRV went on the road and had a battle for the second place spot in the league against Crook County.
Crook County, at 5-1 in the league, and HRV, at 4-2 in the league, had met earlier this season in Hood River in a match that went to five sets.
In the match on Sept. 18 between the Cowboys and Eagles, Crook County was able to come way with the 3-2 victory, taking the final set by a score of 15-13.
Down 0-1 in the series and behind one-game in the conference, and only one game ahead of Pendleton in third place, this was a must-win game for HRV if the Eagles wanted to continue to test for the top-spot in the conference.
Crook County had headed into this game with both confidence and momentum as they had beat Ridgeview, the top-seed in the IMC, in the championship match of the silver bracket at the non-league Clearwater Classic tournament on Oct. 6.
Prior to losing to West Albany in the championship match of the bronze bracket at the Clearwater Classic, HRV had been on an eight-game winning streak, tying Ridgeview with the longest winning streak of the season amongst IMC schools.
With impressive play from both schools as of late, it was no surprise that, in Crook County on Oct. 9, the Eagles and Cowboys would put on a show for the second spot in conference.
In the first set, HRV came out right away and stole the home court energy from Crook County as they beat the Cowboys by a final score of 25-18.
A chance to take a commanding 2-0 lead on the road, Crook County found life in its crowd and tied the match at 1-1 after a 25-17 victory in the second set.
HRV and Crook County would split the third and fourth sets, setting up a fifth and final set to determine second-place in the conference.
Both schools would go back and forth in the final set, but HRV would eventually pull away in the final to take a 15-12 victory to beat the Cowboys 3-2 on the road in what was a, “big win for this team,” said Hood River Valley head coach Scott Walker.
Katie Kennedy led the charge offensively with 26 kills and added 16 digs. Kennedy also had five service aces for the match.
Emily Curtis had a “gutsy performance,” said Walker, with 15 digs and three service aces.
The Eagles’ leading setter was Chloe Kurahara with 31 assists.
This season, HRV has split the season series with both Crook County and Ridgeview; the victory over the Ravens on Oct. 4 remains as the only league loss for Ridgeview this season.
On Oct. 11, HRV beat Redmond at home by a final match score of 3-0 to move to 6-2 in league play. Ridgeview also picked up a victory Thursday night in The Dalles, while Crook County wasn’t in any league action, to set up an exciting couple games of conference play that remain.
In a tight race for the top-spot in league, HRV has the easiest two-game league schedule remaining as the combined record of those teams is 5-9 in league play this season, while Ridgeview and Crook County have one last match against each other on Oct. 16 in Crook County. Then, each school faces off against Pendleton one more time.
If the Cowboys can knock off the Ravens at home Oct. 16, and HRV beats Pendleton on the road on Oct. 16, there will be a three-way tie for first place with only one league game left on the schedule for Ridgeview and HRV, while Crook County will have two games remaining.
The final game of the regular season for HRV is on Oct. 18 at home against The Dalles. Game time is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.