Volleyball team proves that they are once again one of the top teams in the state

When the 2013 volleyball season started, Crook County head coach Rosie Honl was confident that by the end of the year she would have another solid team.

However, with five freshmen on the roster there were questions about just how good the team could be.

Many of those questions were answered Saturday when the team took first in the 24-team Rogue Valley Invitational.

The Cowgirls knocked off Class 5A Willamette and Churchill, who were sixth and second in the power rankings at the time en route to the finals. Then, in the championship, the team came from behind to defeat the Roseburg Indians. The Indians finished second at state in Class 6A a year ago, and were second in this year’s power rankings going into the match. Roseburg had a lofty 15-1 record going into the finals, and was playing just a short distance from home.

Yet the Cowgirls were able to regroup after dropping the first set of the match to take two sets in a row and win the tournament championship.

Seniors Hannah Troutman and Kathryn Kaonis were outstanding throughout the tournament as was Junior Karlee Hollis.

Fellow upperclassmen Sam Kaonis and Laken Berlin played steady as usual, while junior setter Kayla Hamilton also played well in the tournament.

Nonetheless, it was the play of Crook Count’s freshmen that made the difference. Although most of the freshmen did not have huge statistics they were calm and cool under pressure.

Outside hitters Jennifer McCallister and Laura Fraser each had blocks at critical times during the tournament. Middle Blocker Jennifre Roth also had a pair of important blocks and served well throughout the day.

Defensive specialist Aspen Christiansen split time at Libero with Berlin, and the duo had almost identical stats, while freshman setter Abby Smith finished with 67 assists in the tournament.

As Honl said following the match, it was important to get the freshmen playing time in tight matches -- and the Cowgirls had several tight matches during the day. They lost their first set of the tournament and had to rebound to defeat South Eugene. Then, in the semifinals, they lost game one to Churchill and were on the brink of elimination in game two prior to McCallister’s block. In the championship round, the Cowgirls lost game one again before rebounding to win the next two games.

Playing in tight games against top 5A and 6A teams is important for the teams development. Winning those games at this point in time is an added bonus.

The team has now proven that they can win close matches and that they can come from behind. More importantly, it looks like the players are all learned their roles on this year’s team. Everyone on the team is contributing, including those who are getting limited playing time.

Despite the youth, the Cowgirls are off to perhaps their best start ever. The team is 9-0, and has already beaten six teams who placed at state last year.

The Cowgirls have once again positioned themselves as one of the top teams in the state. Now we will have to wait and see if they can win their eighth-consecutive state title.

The Cowgirls are not the only Crook County team which looked good this weekend.

After stumbling to an 0-3 start, the Crook County High School football team looked dominant in their 51-13 victory over Madras. It will be interesting to see if the Cowboys can keep the momentum going this Friday when they host the Class 5A Madison Senators.

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