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Anyone who saw the Class 4A State Volleyball Championships knows that Crook County was in control throughout the tournament.
That was no surprise. After all, the Cowgirls were seeded No. 1 going into the tournament, and were loaded with talent. Or were they?
Yes, the Cowgirls had two-time class 4A player of the year Makayla Lindburg. The team also featured Hannah Troutman, who was recently ranked as one of the two hardest hitting volleyball players in the state.
Certainly that is a solid foundation for any volleyball team.
Seniors Annie Fraser and Ali Apperson were also experienced varsity players.
However, when you get right down to it, the Cowgirls were actually one of the youngest teams at the state tournament.
Head coach Rosie Honl has consistently pointed out that at the start of the season this year’s squad was the least prepared of all her championship teams.
Yet the team rolled through the season with a 23-4 record — 36-4 if you count tournament pool play.
The wins include a pair of impressive victories over Gresham, who finished fourth in the Class 6A tournament, as well as a win over Class 6A?champion Jesuit.
By the end of the season, Honl was saying that this year’s team has improved more than any other team she has ever coached.
Obviously that bodes well for next year. The Cowgirls will return a lot of firepower next season. However, that doesn’t mean that Crook County should take another state championship for granted.
Lindburg is a special talent. She has an array of shots which may not always look impressive, but are consistently deadly to the opposition. Don’t underestimate the importance of her quiet leadership this season.
In addition, teams such as Sisters, Astoria, Madras, Banks, and Hidden Valley are also hungry for a state championship.
By the Sunday after the Cowgirls state finals win over the Astoria Fishermen, Honl was already making plans for next year.
The plans include investing huge amounts of time in the Rimrock Volleyball Club youth program. The program is largely responsible for Crook County’s success. However, it is a two-edged sword. Although the program has done much to develop Crook County volleyball, it has also made all the volleyball in Central Oregon Stronger.
Players from several area high schools played on the Rimrock Nationals squad last year. Dozens of youth from all over Central Oregon participate in Rimrock’s developmental program as well as competing in tournament sponsored by the club.
The end result is that while the program has made Crook County stronger it has also helped their Central Oregon rivals improve.
With that said, Crook County will still be the favorites going into next season — a?role which puts tremendous pressure on players, but a role that the players seem to relish.
So just how does the Crook County streak of seven-consecutive titles compare with other winning streaks in sports?
Crook County has long since passed the Oregon record for consecutive volleyball championships.
The national record for consecutive volleyball championships is 16. However, that was set when many schools still did not have competitive girls sports programs.
Two other schools in the nation also have impressive winning streaks in volleyball. Coventry, Conn. has won six consecutive state championships and is in the state finals again this weekend while St. Philip, Mich. has also won six consecutive titles and is in their state’s semifinals.
In Oregon high school history there are also some impressive streaks. Nyssa won state wrestling championships from 2000-2007. South Eugene won eight consecutive boys cross country championships, while Jesuit has won nine straight girls cross country titles. Meanwhile, Burns, which has the longest streak in Oregon history, saw their streak of 10 consecutive state wrestling titles come to an end just last year.
Will the Cowgirls come close to any of those streaks? Nobody really knows. However, the team still looks strong for at least two more seasons. With the OSAA realigning school classifications after next year, no one really knows what is going to happen.
Nonetheless, at least for now, the streak is still alive and well — an athletic accomplishment that Crook County should certainly be proud of.