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Crook County High School volleyball team readies for upcoming season with successful team camp

LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Members of the Cowgirl volleyball team celebrate after a key point in the Rimrock Volleyball Team Camp championship match. The Cowgirls fell to the Class 6A Sandy Pioneers in a tight three-set match.Summer is often a time for fall sports teams to get in some practice and learn to play together.

The Crook County High School volleyball team spent the past weekend participating in the Rimrock Volleyball Team Camp.

Most teams have to travel to be able to participate in a high-level team camp.

However, for more than a decade, Rimrock Volleyball Club director and recently retired CCHS volleyball coach Rosie Honl has directed a camp in town.

"Oh gosh, it helped us immensely," said first year Crook County head coach Baylee Dunkel. "The team went from being kind of timid on the court with each other and now everyone is meshing well together. I've seen 100 percent improvement."

Historically, the camp has been a great indicator of what teams are going to be successful at the state tournament.

Teams that finish in the top four at the end of camp tournament almost always earn a trophy in their respective state tournament.

That should be a good omen for the Cowgirls, who placed second to Class 6A Sandy in the camp tournament.

The Cowgirls lost the first game of the championship 25-23, then rebounded to take game two 26-24, before falling 15-13 in the third set.

Although a lot is made of the end of camp tournament, the reality is that the camp is all about getting better and getting ready for the season.

"It was frustrating at first," said Lily Cooper, a junior who is switching positions this season. "But now I'm really getting into it, and everyone has been helping me a lot with getting to different places. I've improved a lot over the camp, and I've seen a lot of the players on our team improve."

The camp focuses on technique, using drills and competition to teach the Gold Medal Squared volleyball system (GMS).

LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Mekynzie Wells digs a hard spike during the Cowgirls' match against Sandy at the Rimrock Team Camp.Each of the 12 teams at the camp was given a coach so that the team's actual coach could observe both their team and the drills.

Some coaches used it to evaluate their talent, while others took a more hands-on role.

Dunkel used the opportunity to watch her players and to learn more about the GMS system.

"The camp really helped with the GMS principles," she said. "I really liked seeing that."

Dunkel noted that the camp was also a great opportunity for her to get to know her players better and for the team to bond.

"It was four intense days of bonding," she said. "This was really amazing."

Senior libero Mekynzie Wells was also pleased with how well the team worked together at the camp.

"It shows us where players play better," Wells said. "We get to know our different teammates, and I feel like it ended up pretty good. I wouldn't have asked much more from a team. We played with heart in that last game."

If past seasons are any indication, then the high finish at the camp tournament bodes well for the Cowgirls this season.

With fall practice starting early this year, it is now less than a month away.

"Open gyms and everything, they are all summer long," Cooper said. "But the team camp is the beginning of the season, and that's how you learn to play together as a team."

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