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Team loses five players to graduation, but saw lots of improvement during the season from younger players

LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Kaylee Carr plays a shot during the final home match of the season. Carr is expected to be the Cowgirls' top player next season.The Crook County Cowgirls finished in the middle of the pack in their first year of Intermountain tennis action.

The Cowgirls did not win as many matches as they would have liked after moving up from Class 4A. Nonetheless, the team was highly competitive, staying close, even in matches that they lost.

"Two thumbs up for the year," Crook County first year head coach Aaron Raasch said. "We were pretty competitive this year. Only one team really blew us out, and they only blew us out once." (Teams played each other twice during the league schedule.)

Although the team did not send anyone to the state tournament, Raasch was still pleased with the team's performance during the course of the season.

He added that the team owes a lot to the five seniors on this year's roster.

Those seniors, Olivia Cooper, Marlen Ceja, Tansy Clark, Katelynn Gibson and Ashley Reynolds not only provided the Cowgirls with much of their scoring during the season, they were also leaders both on and off the court.

"I probably wasn't going to coach, but those seniors asked me to," Raasch said. "They were the ones that got me to do it. They are just such great people that I knew it was going to be fun."

Cooper was the Cowgirls No. 1 singles player all season and just missed out on a trip to the state tournament.

Clark and Ceja also contributed in a big way. The two were the Cowgirls' No. 1 doubles team all season, and, like Cooper, had a chance to qualify for the state tournament, but came up just short.

LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Olivia Cooper was one of five seniors on this year's Crook County High School girls tennis roster. Cooper was one of the team's top players, playing No. 1 singles all season.Reynolds played No. 3 singles for the Cowgirls and was competitive throughout the year, staying close in most of her matches, while Gibson teamed with Alena McCabe to play No. 2 doubles for the Cowgirls.

Despite losing so many key players, Raasch believes that the team will still be competitive next season.

Kaylee Carr, who played No. 2 singles all season, returns and is expected to move up to the No. 1 singles position.

"Carr is obviously very good," Raasch said.

In addition, the team has a sizeable group of sophomores who Raasch said improved a lot during the course of the season.

"We had a lot of improvement from the beginning to where we are now," he said. "I don't think anybody else (in the league) is going to get way stronger, so I think we are going to be pretty strong again next year."

In addition to McCabe and Carr, other players to watch for next year include Hannah Love, Maria Knight, Kirstie Chu, Jillian Gish, Gracie Slawter and Meredith Cooper.

Raasch noted that he was especially pleased with how well the team competed this year and that with hard work and determination, next year could be even better.

"I was really proud of the girls that no matter how far the girls were down, no one ever gave up," he said. "Everyone fought for every point, for every game, and every match. They fought just as hard for the last point as they were fighting at the beginning. It was just a fantastic season."

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