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Crook County High School soccer squad improves late in the season, program ready for jump

LON AUSTIN - CCHS goal keeper Paige Steward focuses on a ball coming at her during the Cowgirls' 4-0 loss to Ridgeview, closing out the home season.The Crook County Cowgirl soccer team finished the season last week with two more losses, giving them 14 on the season without a victory.

With an 0-10 Intermountain Conference record, Crook County closed out their season with a 4-0 home loss on Tuesday against Ridgeview, followed by a 3-0 road loss on Thursday against Redmond.

Despite the losses, the turnaround by the Cowgirls after Aaron Raasch became the interim head coach, replacing Destanie Johnson, was incredible.

"It's been a complete 180," said senior defender Lauren Papke. "The attitude is completely different. The girls want to be out here, and you can see it in their excitement, and a complete change in how we play."

Playing at Ward Rhoden Stadium on Tuesday evening for senior night, the Cowgirls played inspired defense for most of the first half, foiling attack after attack by the Ravens. Ridgeview finally scored with less than four minutes remaining in the first half, then scored again with 1:21 remaining in the half to take a 2-0 lead. The Ravens did not score again until just 13:48 remaining in the second half. Their final goal came with 4:30 left in the contest. In the second half, Crook County had several scoring opportunities, but the closest they came was a shot by Emma Bales that hit off the cross bar.

Although she was disappointed with the loss, Bales was pleased with the effort.

"I'm very pleased," she said. "That was a heck of a game compared to our last game with them. Our attitude – our effort and definitely our overall atmosphere of the team — have all changed. We have become a family, and I'm really proud of everybody."

At first glance, a 4-0 loss might not sound like a huge accomplishment, but the first time the two teams played, Ridgeview won 8-0 in just under 50 minutes. Tuesday they were forced to play an entire match against a fired-up team that played tough defense all night.

"When I was approached to do this, I was super nervous," Raasch told his team following the match. "I want to say this turned out to be a much better experience than I ever thought it would be, especially with a sport I don't know very much about."

Thursday at Redmond was very similar. The Cowgirls gave up two late-first-half goals, then just one more goal in the second half. Once again, Crook County had several scoring opportunities, but were unable to find the back of the net.

"It's bittersweet," Bales said. "It means that we get to go on and grow, but at the same time it means that we won't get to play with these same people again."

"Our goal wasn't necessarily to win," Papke added. "The goal was to improve and tonight we improved. That's all you can ask for. A huge thank you to everyone who helped us. After everything that happened, it's great to see everyone that rallied around us and wanted to help us finish off our season."

Redmond will play at Corvallis on Tuesday in the first round of the state tournament, while Ridgeview will host Putnam.

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