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Cowgirls start quest for seventh- consecutive state championship - Central Oregonian
November 1, 2012Crook County High School
The Crook County Cowgirls open their quest for a seventh-consecutive state volleyball championship on Saturday when they host the Hidden Valley Mustangs.
“I’ve never had a team improve as much as this team has in the last eight weeks,” head coach Rosie Honl said of her team. “They work hard every day in practice and are so mindful. They are just a great group of girls.”
Although the two teams have not met this year, the Mustangs and Cowgirls are familiar foes.
In 2011, Crook County defeated Hidden Valley in the state championship match, while in 2010, the two teams met in the semifinals with Crook County coming out on top.
Hidden Valley does not appear to be as strong this year as in the past, but they are still a formidable foe.
Hidden Valley finished in second place in the Skyline Conference with a 13-6 overall record and an 8-2 conference mark. The Mustangs started their season slowly, losing three of their first four matches. However, Hidden Valley won their next five matches and finished the year winning five of their last six contests.
The Mustangs, who are ranked 19th in the final power rankings, reached the first round of the playoffs by knocking off 11th-ranked Tillamook 27-25, 25-21, 25-20, 29-27 in a play-in match last Saturday.
Meanwhile, the Cowgirls were undefeated in the Intermountain Hybrid Conference as well as Special District I. Crook County finished with a 19-4 record including wins against highly-ranked Curtis, Wash., and Jesuit.
The Cowgirls finished the year with the No. 1 seed in the playoffs, earning a bye into the first round.
The Cowgirls’ only loss to a Class 4A opponent was a loss at No. 2 ranked Sisters early in the season. The team’s other losses were all to class 6A opponents.
Crook County and Hidden Valley have taken very different routes to reach the playoffs.
Hidden Valley has played almost exclusively against Class 4A opposition. The Mustangs lost in their only match against a Class 6A opponent and have played 16 matches against 4A teams.
Meanwhile, Crook County has played against primarily Class 5A and 6A opponents. The Cowgirls were 9-0 this season against Class 5A opponents and 2-3 against Class 6A opposition. However, that doesn’t really tell the whole story. The Cowgirls are 32-4 when you count pool play in tournaments, with many of those wins coming against Class 6A opponents.
The Cowgirls are led by Makayla Lindburg and Hannah Troutman. The duo have dominated matches at the net, averaging more than 10 kills a match. The pair also leads the team in digs and service receives.
Crook County also relies on the steady serving of Ali Apperson and Laken Berlin. In her first year as setter, Kayla Hamilton has done a solid job running the offense while Annie Fraser, Karlee Hollis, and Kathryn Kaonis all contribute to the team’s offensive attack.
Hidden Valley often triple blocks in the middle, daring teams to hit from the outside. Look for Fraser, Hollis, and Kaonis to have opportunities to shine against the Mustangs.
Like Crook County, Hidden Valley relies on a pair of solid hitters. Middle blockers Lacey Maynard and Ashley Heeter both had big games against Tillamook, going for double-figures in both kills and blocks. The Mustangs feature three players who are 5-10 or taller and rely on their blocking to intimidate opponents.
Both the Mustangs and the Cowgirls are still young teams. They each have just three seniors on their rosters while both also have four sophomores. However, don’t let the youth fool you. Both squads have plenty of playoff experience.
Adding to the motivation for the Cowgirls is their desire to take a seventh-consecutive state championship. When Crook County took their sixth title last year, they set an Oregon state record for consecutive championships. Crook County is in rarified air as just three teams nationwide are vying for their seventh consecutive title this year.
The national record for consecutive volleyball championships is held by Cade Episcopal School in Acadiana, La., which won 16 consecutive titles from 1987 to 2002. That’s something that the Cowgirls don’t even discuss.
“We don’t talk about streaks,” Honl said. “All the girls said at the start of this season is, ‘Let’s not be the ones who end the streak.’ Since then, we have been working hard to get better every day.”
Saturday’s match is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. The winner of the contest will win a berth in the state tournament, which will be held Friday and Saturday, Nov. 9-10, at Lane Community College in Eugene. Their opponent will be the winner of a first-round contest between Elmira and Philomath.