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Plenty of new faces on the CCHS program and start at jamboree entails that there's much work to do

LON AUSTIN  - Jacey Ramoss sets a ball during the Cowgirls' jamboree, where they went 1-2. The Crook County High School volleyball team is expected to be a state title contender this year.

Still, if Thursday's jamboree at Summit High School is any indication, the team may struggle at times early in the year.

"We need to be more aggressive on the court and in practice and be more confident in our abilities," head coach Kristy Struck said after the team went 1-2 at the jamboree.

"I think that this morning we didn't have a lot of energy," senior hitter McKenzie Jonas added. "It's not that we weren't prepared or weren't good enough. I think that we were sluggish and we weren't playing our best."

After being tied 8-8, the Cowgirls struggled to score points in the middle of their set with Mountain View, falling 25-17 to the Cougars.

Although the team played better at times against perennial powerhouse Sisters in their second set, the Crook County still found themselves on the short end of a 25-16 set to the Outlaws.

But Jonas believes that the Sisters set might have been a turning point for the Cowgirls.

"I think in the Sisters game, once we brought back our energy, that's when we really did well," she said. "I think that celebrating every point no matter what and encouraging your teammates when they make a mistake or anything like that, is really important. Even though we lost the Sisters game, I think that was when we had our most energy and was most into it."

The cowgirls then edged South Eugene 27-25 in their final set of the jamboree.

"I think that win was pretty important, not just for our morale and self esteem," Jonas said. "We have a lot of new players this year that don't know what our program can do, so I think it was important for them to see what the expectations for the program are."

The Cowgirls had just three seniors on the roster last year. However a fourth player chose to graduate early and two other members of last year's final eight team are not playing this year. As a result, the team looked out of sync at times on Thursday.

Crook County will still be young this year, once again with just three seniors on the roster.

Jonas is joined by fellow seniors Jacey Ramoss, a setter, and Abby Barker, a hitter who spent the last two years as the team's manager. Other players with varsity experience include junior libero Jaycee Villastrigo, junior outside hitter Joann McKinnon, and sophomore hitter Cylie Hartzell.

They will be joined on the varsity roster by juniors Tylee Cossitt and Danner Hemphill along with sophomores Anona Marsh, Callie Winebarger and Camryn Echternkamp, as well as freshman Lillimae Brumble.

Despite the youth, after dropping to Class 4A, the team is the prohibitive favorites to win the Tri-Valley Conference as well as one of the teams that is expected to make a run at a state tournament trophy.

"Practice has been great," Struck said. "The girls have been working hard, being mindful and making changes. The team leadership is really great and the girls are getting along wonderfully."

That doesn't mean that the team does not have a lot of work left to do if they want to reach their season goals.

"We could always be more vocal and communication could always be better, so it will continue to be one of our goals," Struck said. "We still are working on our rotations and fine-tuning things. I like the effort, but we still have a lot of work ahead of us."

The Cowgirls open the season today at home with a double header against Caldera and Sisters. Gametime for the first match is set for 2:30 p.m. with match two scheduled to begin at approximately 6:30 p.m.

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