The young team, with five freshman, had growth and improvement on their minds

by: LON AUSTIN - Karlee Hollis is expected to carry much of the offensive load for next year's Cowgirls. Hollis, a junior, was second on the team in kills this year and was named to the all-tournament first team after the Cowgirls won their eighth consecutive state championship.

Crook County High School volleyball team has made a habit of winning.

Still, when the season started with five freshmen on the varsity roster, there were a lot of questions for the Cowgirls to answer. By the end of the season however, the questions were answered as Crook County crushed Cascade in the state championship to win their eighth consecutive title.

"It was probably the most growth I've ever seen in a season," said Head Coach Rosie Honl. "It was questionable whether we would take state, but these girls just had improvement on their minds every single day. You know, this is probably the most mindful group I have ever coached."

Of course it didn't hurt that the Cowgirls had the most valuable player at the state tournament, and one of the best players in the state. Senior, Hannah Troutman, was dominant the entire season, but never was it more apparent than at the state championship. Troutman finished the tournament with 65 kills in just three matches as the 5-09 outside hitter was unstoppable.

It wasn't just with her hitting that Troutman had an impact. The all-around player also led the team in service receive and digs during the course of the season. If that wasn't enough, Troutman was also the team leader.

"Troutman just did a great job, both on the court and as a leader with the young kids," Honl said.

However, Troutman was not alone in her efforts during the season. Fellow senior Kathryn Kaonis provided more offense, taking the pressure off of Troutman. Junior Karlee Hollis was also potent on offense, as well as being one of the team's top servers.

"They did a really nice job," Honl said. "All the older girls made the freshmen feel like they were part of the team and that was huge."

Although the team's four seniors provided the necessary leadership, the freshmen were still critical to the team's success. Aspen Christiansen ended the season as the team's starting libero and was second on the team in digs while fellow freshman Abby Smith split time with junior Kayla Hamilton as the team's setter.

Freshmen Jennifer McCallister, Jennifer Roth, and Laura Fraser also contributed throughout the season.

"Their improvement was huge," Honl said. "It was definitely a huge learning curve."

The team will lose just four players to graduation, still the loss of Troutman and Kaonis will definitely be felt.

"Troutman and Kaonis are two big hitters that we will have to replace," Honl said. "And Troutman, there's no replacing her. I mean the kills, the unbelievable digs, she took up half the service receive, so Hollis is going to have to take over that position and the girls are really going to have to pick it up because we have lost two major hitters."

Even though replacing Troutman and Kaonis will be difficult, Honl believes that it's possible.

"They are all excited about next year," she said. "They came to my office on Tuesday and said 'I don't know what to do — when does Rimrock (the local volleyball club) start? Can we get started now?' And I said, 'No, I'm not doing anything for at least a week.' It's going to take a lot of hard work, but I think they can do it again.

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