Much of the success of high school program is credited to youth volleyball club

Although there are many factors which have led to the success of the Crook County High School volleyball program, one of the primary reasons is the Rimrock Volleyball LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Members of the Rimrock 12s team celebrate a point during the championship match of their final tournament of the season. The squad went on to defeat a team from Redmond to win the tournament.

“Without the youth program we wouldn’t be enjoying the success that we have seen in recent years,” CCHS Head Coach Rosie Honl said.

When Honl accepted the job at Crook County in 1996, one of the first things she did was start the volleyball club. Now, in her 18th season as the Crook County head coach, Honl has enjoyed unprecedented success. The high school team has won eight consecutive state championships, while the volleyball club has become one of the premiere clubs in the Northwest.

This year the Rimrock club has more than 150 participants competing on teams ranging from 10-and-under local squads to an 18-and-under team that is one of the top eight teams in Oregon and Washington.

“Our 18U National team is in the platinum division (the top eight teams in Oregon and Washington),” Honl proudly said. “Our 16s black team just missed taking the gold division, and our 14s black was in the gold division until recently.”by: LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - McKenzie Wells dives for a ball during the semifinals of a 14U tournament at Crook County Middle School. Wells and her teammates finished second to a team from Sisters.

While most of the younger players in the program are from Crook County, the older traveling teams have players from throughout Central?Oregon.

In order to provide younger players the opportunity to play in tournaments, while still keeping the costs down, Rimrock hosts several tournaments throughout the winter. While those tournaments used to include just teams from Central Oregon, in recent years squads from throughout the state have started coming.

“This year we had teams from John Day, Hood River, Burns, and Klamath Falls regularly bring teams,” Honl said. “Plus all the teams from Central Oregon.”

The influx of teams from outside Central Oregon has raised the level of play at local tournaments. However, the Rimrock Club is still coming out on top. In the final local tournament of the year, which was held in late February, the Rimrock 10U and 12U teams both won their age groups, while a 14U team finished second to a squad from Sisters.

In addition to youth tournaments the club also hosts an annual alumni tournament, which includes local club teams as well as teams made up of former Rimrock Club members. The annual Alumni tournament is held each year the last week of December. This year’s tournament had one of the most impressive lineups ever with more than two dozen current and former college volleyball players competing in the event.

Meanwhile, this past weekend the Rimrock 18s National Team, which has just two seniors on its roster, finished 11th out of more than 60 teams at a regional tournament, which was held in Spokane, Wash.

Three members of the Nationals team have already committed to play volleyball at NCAA?division I universities.

Crook County’s Hannah Troutman has signed a letter of intent to play volleyball at Oregon State University, while Alexis Urbach of Madras has verbally committed to University of California Riverside, and Shealene Little of Culver has committed to Tennessee Tech University.

The Nationals squad also has the distinction of being the only team from outside of the Portland or Seattle metropolitan areas to win a platinum league tournament.

Although Honl directs the entire program, she is by no means the only experienced coach in the program. Local attorney Joel Kent directs the 18s National squad, while more than 20 coaches help in the program.

“Things get smoother every year,” Honl said. “The parents understand what is expected and setup and cleanup go pretty fast now. It’s hard the first month every year getting everything situated, but after that it’s just kind of physically going to practice and coaching.”

Honl credits her husband, Jerry, and club members’ parents with much of the program's success.

“Jerry books all the motels for road trips and takes care of all that part,” she said. “And thanks to all the parents for all the support and getting their kids there. They wouldn’t be able to do it unless their parents do it for them at that age. I just kind of go along for the ride.”

Although the program feeds the high school program, Honl is quick to point out that isn’t the only purpose of the club.

“It’s about fun and fundamentals, too,” she said. “A lot of the girls either won’t go on to play in high school or might just play their freshman year, but they just love it. There are girls that aren’t real standouts, but they are just laughing and having so much fun.”

Even though the emphasis is volleyball, that isn’t all club members participate in. Honl noted that at the final youth practice of the year the team spent time in the weight room, and even doing line dances.

“They were just dripping with sweat,” she said. “Then we went back in the gym and did the Boot Scootin' Boogie and two other songs. It was just a kick.”

Even though the season is over for all the teams (except for the elite travel teams), that doesn’t mean that there isn’t still opportunities to play volleyball.

“After the last tournament I had three or four mothers come up to me and say, ‘My girls just don’t want this to end. Can we do some more?’” Honl said. “I told them that after spring break I would have open gym at the high school if they want to come up and work with me.”

The club also runs a couple of outdoor tournaments in the summer as well as team and individual camps.

Even though the program was started with the goal of improving the high school volleyball team, Honl willingly helps volleyball programs throughout the state.

This summer she is running high school volleyball camps in Vale and Joseph. In addition, the annual Rimrock Team Camp teaches other players and coaches exactly what Crook County is doing from fundamental drills to strategy.

The program uses a system called Gold Medal Squared, and Honl is quick to promote the system as well as share it with other Central Oregon players and coaches.

This year’s Rimrock Club teams include players from both Madras and Sisters,. two communities that are expected to field high school teams next year which may challenge Crook County for bragging rights in Class 4A?volleyball.

Still, Honl is happy to share her coaching philosophy and strategies with others, including other competitors.

“Anything we do that promotes and improves volleyball in Central Oregon is good for the sport,” Honl said. “

Central Oregon is recognized now for the quality of its volleyball players. Playing against good competition makes people into better players and if we want to be the best then we need to be able to beat the best.”

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