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Long-time head coach Lloyd Rodgers steps down following the season's conclusion

LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Kadence Kee plays a backhand winner. Kee and doubles partner Sarah Connolly were one of the top doubles teams in the league and are two of a group of Cowgirl players who graduated this year. The Crook County High School girls tennis team will be in a rebuilding year next spring.

Not only has the team lost most of their top players to graduation, long-time head coach Lloyd Rodgers stepped down as head coach at the end of the season.

Coupled with Crook County moving up to Class 5A for next season, that leaves a lot of unanswered questions for the program.

The Cowgirls will step into the new-look Intermountain Conference.

With Summit, Bend and Mountain View moving up to Class 6A, the entire conference has been revamped.

Joining Crook County in the new conference will be Ridgeview, Redmond, The Dalles, Hood River Valley and Pendleton.

The Cowgirls have competed successfully against both Redmond and Ridgeview in the past, as well as having recently played The Dalles.

However, both Hood River Valley and Pendleton will be unknowns, as will the way players qualify for the state tournament.

Class 5A will have just four leagues next season, with four singles players and four doubles teams from each league qualifying for the state championships.

At this time, how qualifying players will be selected for the state tournament is still to be determined.

For the first time in recent history, the Cowgirls failed to qualify any players for the state tournament this past season, although several players came close.

The Cowgirls had a nearly perfect first day at the regional tournament as eight players advanced to day two of the event.

However, the team struggled in the later rounds as players were gradually eliminated from the competition.

Probably the biggest loss to the team will be No. 1 doubles team Kadence Kee and Sarah Connolly.

The duo has been one of the top doubles teams in the region each of the past two seasons, and has also provided the team with much-needed leadership.

However, they are far from the only players that the team will miss.

Singles players Brittney Vanderjagt and Odessa Green also graduate.

With no replacement for Rodgers announced at this point in time, and key players graduating, there are a lot of unknowns as the team approaches next season.

Not only has Rodgers stepped down as the head coach, he has also stopped running the Crook County Parks and Recreation District summer youth tennis program.

Team members have regularly helped Rogers with the program, improving youth tennis in the community, as well as sharpening their play.

Without that continuity, it remains to be seen how players will develop.

However, that doesn't mean that the team is not without returning talent.

Singles players Olivia Cooper, Kaylee Carr and Natalie Cross all return as do doubles players Marlin Ceja and Tansy Clark, Ashley Reynolds and Hannah Love and Katelyn Gibson and Grace Slawter.

The team also has a solid core of JV players returning that could challenge for varsity spots next season.

How successful the team will be next year at the Class 5A level may depend on how much court time players get in the summer, as well as how quickly a replacement for Rodgers can be hired.

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