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Cowgirls escape with win

Crook County wins despite playing short-handed and in unfamiliar rotation

by: LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Laken Berlin and Kathryn Kaonis go up for a block against the Bend Lava Bears on Tuesday. The Cowgirls were able to win in four sets, knocking off the Class 5A No. 1 ranked Lava Bears.

“We were lucky just to get out of there alive,” Crook County head volleyball coach Rosie Honl said following her team’s victory over the Bend Lava Bears Tuesday night.
   “Playing out of our normal rotation and in their house — that’s amazing.”
   The Cowgirls were forced to go to a new lineup Monday afternoon when starting setter Kayla Hamilton underwent emergency foot surgery. With just one day of practice and the No. 1 Class 5A team in the state on the horizon, Honl revamped her entire rotation Monday afternoon.
   In spite of the makeshift lineup, the Cowgirls were able to escape with a 25-22, 16-25, 25-22, 25-21 victory in the match which was played at Bend.
   Starting right side hitter Annie Fraser and defensive specialist Laken Berlin took turns setting during the match and Honl was pleased with their performance.
   “Fraser and Berlin did a great job,” she said. “And in the last game we were finally able to put the ball in.”
   The Cowgirls came out strong in set one rolling out to a 7-1 lead. However, Crook County service errors and a strong Bend defensive effort allowed the Lava Bears to get back in the set.
   The Cowgirls uncharacteristically made six service errors in the set as the Lava Bears came roaring back to close to within a point at 20-19.
   However, the Cowgirls were able to keep their composure and hang on to win the set.
   “We missed too many serves, but our passing was real good in the first set,” Honl said. “We don’t normally serve like that. We are a god serving team. We serve tough and we make our serves. Tonight we were missing first serves which is unacceptable.”
   The Cowgirls continued to make errors in the second set as the Lava Bears rolled to the win, tying the match.
   Prior to starting set three the Cowgirl players huddled off the end of the court without the coaching staff as they worked to regroup.
   “We were talking about not getting down on ourselves and needing to push through,” said team captain Makayla Lindburg following the match. “We didn’t want another upset like our match with Sisters. We were getting pretty frustrated without our setter and trying to figure out a new lineup, so we had to just maintain ourselves emotionally.”
   Following the short meeting, the team was able to correct some of their errors as they led throughout in set three. The set ended with a booming kill by Lindburg and the Cowgirls led two sets to one.
   When Crook County rolled out to an 8-0 lead to start the fourth set, it looked like the match was over. However, the Lava Bears battled back and took the lead. Bend gradually stretched their lead to 20-16.
   “We talked about taking a timeout,” Honl later said. “But we decided that we would wait one more point.”
   Honl’s patience paid off as Lindburg blasted a pair of kills to put the Cowgirls back in the match. An ace by Berlin, another kill by Lindburg and the Cowgirls were back in front. The team finally closed out the match on an ace by Karlee Hollis.
   “We just learned this rotation yesterday,” Lindburg said. “So we still have a lot to work on. We are going to figure out what our strengths are as a team in this rotation and we will be fine.”
   In spite of having some early errors, Lindburg finished with a monster match. She led all players with 23 kills and added 15 digs. Hannah Troutman also had a solid match finishing with 17 kills and 15 digs.
   However, it was the play of Berlin and Ali Apperson that made the difference. Although the Cowgirls converted on just 85 percent of their service attempts as a team, Berlin and Apperson were spectacular from behind the service line. Berlin finished the match 26-26 with three aces. Meanwhile, Apperson missed her first serve, then was 14-14 the remainder of the match with four aces.
   Berlin also added 12 assists, while Fraser added 28.
   With the victory, the Cowgirls are now 7-2 on the year and have risen to No. 1 in the Class 4A power rankings. Meanwhile, the Lava Bears have lost their last two matches and are now 5-3 on the season. In addition, they have dropped to third in the latest Class 5A power rankings.
   “Bend’s a good team,” Honl said. “A real good team and we were just glad to get out of there with a win.”
   The Cowgirls will continue to be without the services of Hamilton for at least another week, and possibly much longer. Hamilton was back at practice on Wednesday, but was still on crutches.
   “I just want to get back out there and help the team,” she said. “I want to be out there now.”
   The Cowgirls travel to Oregon City on Saturday for the 12-team Oregon City Invitational, then have an important Special District I match against a tough Ridgeview Raven team on Tuesday evening. The match, which was originally scheduled to be played in Prineville, is set to begin at 6:30 p.m.