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Crook County girls soccer squad struggled when it came to wins in the 2018 season, but still viewed the year as highly succesful

LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN
 - Gracie Kasberger takes a shot at goal during the Cowgirls' game against Dallas early in the year. Crook County won the game 9-0. Kasberger scored three goals in the match and seven on the year.

Sometimes, it's not all about wins and losses.

Although the Crook County Cowgirl soccer team struggled to win games in 2018, head coach Rich Abrams still views the season as highly successful.

"Overall, I was really happy with our performance this year," he said. "It was just a really great season. And tears. At the end, the girls cried. They started crying three days before the last game. They were sad to see the seniors go, and they were sad for it to be over. I can't think of a year that has been better."

The Cowgirls finished the year with a 2-11-2 overall record and a 0-8-2 Intermountain Conference mark, last in the conference.

Not a record to brag about. However, there is more to the story than just the team's record.

Crook County moved up to Class 5A from Class 4A this year.

Instead of struggling with the higher level of competition, the Cowgirls were actually much more competitive than in recent years.

Crook County scored 22 goals on the season, possibly a school record, certainly the most goals a Cowgirl team has scored in the last 15 years.

In addition, Crook County limited their opponents to 69 goals. Compare both stats to 2017, where the team gave up 76 goals while scoring just five in a 0-13 campaign.

"It's hard to gauge because we weren't playing against the same teams that we were last year, but we were a much, much better team," Abrams said. "We stepped up to 5A, and there is no way to really know, but I know that Ridgeview was as good as any team that we have played in the last few years and probably Hood River Valley as well. So there's no way to really gauge, but we were definitely a much better team than we have been the past few years."

Abrams believes that it could have been an even better year except for injuries.

Gracie Kasberger, one of the team's leaders, was injured during the sixth game of the year and never returned.

Kasberger led the team in scoring with seven goals and would almost certainly have scored more.

And Kasberger was far from the only player to lose time because of injury.

Goalkeeper Hazel Hoffman missed several games at the start of the year, while Teagan Freeman missed most of the middle of the season.

Grace Flitner, Tansy Clark and Marlen Ceja-Prado also missed games during the course of the season.

"Injuries were huge," Abrams said. "Our main scorer, our main organizer up front. When Gracie got hurt, that had a huge impact just because we had to figure out other ways to score. We eventually did, but it took us a while to get things going again. They played differently when she was there, and they didn't press forward as much."

Abrams added that the other injuries hurt the team as well.

Still, despite the injuries, Abrams was pleased that the Cowgirls still found a way to score goals.

"We were able to gel a little bit and find some goals where we haven't before," he said. "We had two freshmen score five goals between them, which is really great."

Those freshmen, Tienna Quinn and Emma Bales, became integral parts of the team as the season went on.

Still, Abrams noted that the team will likely be in a rebuilding year next year as they lost seven starters to graduation.

Those seniors meant everything to the program, according to Abrams.

"They really took this on as their team," he said. "Which is what I encourage them to do. I want as much leadership as I can from the players, and they really took this on. They really fostered an attitude of camaraderie. They did a whole lot of things that they said, 'This is our year, and we are going to make things happen for the team.' Not just on the field, but just a lot of fun things that they made the season for everybody a really good year."

Still, despite all the seniors the team is losing, Abrams noted that there are still some important pieces of the team that are returning.

"It's going to be a rebuilding year," he said. "It's hard to replace girls that have been with the program for three or four years in just one year, especially when you are replacing seven starters. But we've got some players that were able to get a lot of experience due to injuries and other reasons, so I think that we will be better off than people think."

Adding to the optimism, Abrams added that the JV team also scored a lot of goals and was able to win several games.

"They were something to watch," he said. "They are a pretty athletic JV."

Still, Abrams is realistic and knows that Crook County still has a long ways to go before they can compete with teams like Ridgeview and Hood River Valley on a consistent basis.

"To be honest, to really have a program where you win, we have to have players that are playing at a higher level before they ever get to high school," he said. "That's what all these other programs do. That's what Ridgeview has. If you look at our volleyball team, they have their program and so does wrestling. That's really important, but it's probably a lot more than I can take on, so it would be nice if somebody came in with a vision to have at least one team playing at a higher level."

Abrams noted that could be through the local AYSO with an all-star team playing against other local teams, or it could be a travel team playing tournaments in the Willamette Valley.

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