A year-long affair

Club teams at root of CC volleyball's success

by: TIM STUMM/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Kimber Duncan, far right, will be among three players representing Crook County at the 4A All-Star tournament this weekend.

   Come to the Redmond high school gym on Monday nights and you will find a packed house.
   On an average night, three volleyball courts will remain booked for a solid two hours with different central Oregon club teams rotating in and out of each.
   The scene is a testament to the growing popularity of girls volleyball in the area and leading the charge is the Crook County program.
   The Cowgirls have been qualifiers for the state playoffs the last four years in a row. Their coach, Rosie Honl, has been named 4A coach of the year twice during this span and this year the team will be sending three representatives to the two-day 4A All-Star game at Tualatin High School on Friday, July 23rd and at Oregon State University in Corvallis on Saturday.
   Only one other team will be sending as many kids and that is 4A State Champion West Linn, who will also be sending three.
   Ask Honl, who will be coaching one of the sides, where it all started _ how a team that could barely win a league game eight years ago has turned into a perennial contender _ and she will talk about nights like these.
   "That's how we became good, we start our kids early," she said.
   The Monday nights are supposed to be for high school age kids, but the Rimrock club, the name of the Crook County teams, brings in kids as young as seventh and eighth grade. They then split them up between two squads pooling their top players equally among each. Otherwise, according to Honl, "we'd kill everyone."
   Honl started the Rimrock club eight years ago when she first came to Crook County. The first year it had one team with only seven girls. The next year it had 40 and then the next 80. Now it has more than 130 athletes divided among several different age groups.
   Cayla Kiser, an incoming junior and returning starter for the varsity team, remembers the early years.
   "A lot more people play now," she said. "As we have started winning, more people have gotten involved."
   She says that the success of the program, and in hand the increase in numbers, is due largely to Honl's coaching techniques.
   "She's more of a friend than a coach," Kiser said. "She makes it personal and not just business."
   Assistant coach Joel Kent agrees.
   "She makes them like the sport. No matter hard they work, if they don't like it, they are not going to produce," he said.
   Besides the Monday night sessions, which were started this year by Sisters coach Chris Crosby, Honl holds light practice sessions every Tuesday and Thursday just so players, she says, "can get a touch on the ball"
   The practices are far from mandatory, and very relaxed, yet about 24 kids show up each night.
   The high school season starts in August and ends in November. The kids get barely a month off before the official club season starts rolling then in December. The Rimrock high school team will play until April and then there is some time off until the summer workouts.
   Representing Crook County at the all-star game this year will be incoming seniors Rhea Wortman and Chelsea Reeher and junior Kimber Duncan.
   Wortman was first team all state last year while Duncan was third team as only a sophomore.
   All are regulars at the Monday night "club" and have been members of Rimrock since they were young.
   Honl says it's a honor that a small school like Crook County will be so represented at this elite statewide function.
   But she is not surprised.
   "For a small town like this it's just incredible. It's exciting for the team," she said. "The girls around here work so hard."