Despite losing record team is positioned to be competitive as they move into a 4A league next year

by: LON AUSTIN - Maddie Lindberg plays a ball away from the front of the Crook County goal during a game earlier this year. Lindberg, a midfielder, was one of three Crook County players named to the Intermountain Hybrid Conference all-league team.

When it comes to wins and losses the Crook County Cowgirls didn’t have the kind of season that they would have liked to have seen.

However, the team showed steady improvement all season and, according to head coach Rich Abrams, are poised to have a breakthrough year next season.

“I think that we have progressed enough that next year we will be a lot more competitive in nearly any league we would join,” he said. “I think that with the players we have back and bringing some players up from the JV we will be a pretty strong team. Having worked together and getting most of them back next year will be a huge bonus.”

The Cowgirls finished with just a 2-11-1 record, but that doesn’t tell the entire story. The team played much of their season against Class 5A JV?teams — teams that make it difficult to see how the Cowgirls stack up against other varsity teams, but teams that play soccer at a very high level.

Summit and Bend, in particular. have strong programs with both varsity teams reaching the Class 5A?semifinals. The Girl’s Summit Storm won the Class 5A title this past weekend. Although their JV teams are made up of younger players, they have the talent and skills to play varsity in most 4A programs.

Those games went down as losses on the Cowgirl record. However, the scores were much closer than in past years, leading Abrams to believe that the team is ready to make a big leap in the near future.

“I think we progressed in being able to work as a team, to close down the other teams better,” he said. “We were able to do better against teams that traditionally have beaten us by a lot. I think that if we can take off next season where we finished, having established more defense, my goal next year is just to generate scoring opportunities on a more regular basis.”

The Cowgirls were outscored 66-10 this year. Hardly a scoring margin to brag about, but compare it to 2010 when the team was outscored 93-7 and the improvement becomes obvious.

Adding to the optimism, the Cowgirls return 12 players with at least some varsity experience, as well as a JV team that finished strong. Forwards Cierra Tyger and Madie Bernard provide much needed speed on the front line for the Cowgirls, while fellow forward Emily Kreachbaum provided the team with power. Midfielders Audrey Bernard, Erin Bush, and Danielle Michael also have speed, while Ashley Cox and Brooke Gregory will anchor the Cowgirl defense next season.

“This will be the first team that is pretty much all mine,” Abrams said. “They haven’t been under other coaches and they know my expectations. We have a lot more speed, stamina, and work rate. Now we just need to come up with a system where we can consistently get the ball down the field and into the box in a consistent way and try to get some shots off.”

More encouraging yet is the Cowgirls will move next year to the Tri-Valley Conference. This year, La Salle Prep won the league with an overall record of 13-4. However, La Salle moves up to 5A next year, leaving the league wide open. Just two other league teams, Gladstone and Molalla, finished the year with winning records.

Moving to the Tri-Valley Conference will mean more travel, but Abrams doesn’t see that has being a problem.

“Madras is close, so that makes four or five trips to the valley,” he said. “It’s a few more trips, but we will try to make them as fun as we can, so they go by quickly. We may have to drive, but at least we know that we can compete.”

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