>Spikers established themselves as the team to beat in Intermountain Conference
In a season chock full of highlights, coach Rosie Honl singles out a routine 3-0 dismantling of visiting Bend High as the Crook County volleyball team's crowning achievement of the year.
   Sure, the game had significance. It culminated an unprecedented 16-0 regular season for the Cowgirls and catapulted them into the playoffs with momentum running high. It proved, without a doubt, that despite having only three seniors and not a single player over six feet tall, this year's team truly was untouchable.
   Honl, however, talks more about the manner of the win.
   "A lot of times when you play a weaker team you play down," she said. "They went in and took care of business."
   With so much on the line, and with the team so close to their goal, the Cowgirls refused to let down. They delighted a home crowd to one of their most dominating performances of the year. The perfect encore to a perfect season.
   In 16 Intermountain Conference matchups, the Crook County volleyball team dropped only two games. One on the road against Hermiston and the other against a surging Mountain View squad who was playing with something to prove.
   The Cowgirls set an almost cocky goal at the beginning of the season to sweep the league - and they accomplished it with apparent ease.
   "From the beginning I thought they would take first in the league and I thought it would be their first undefeated league season," said Honl. "But you never know what can happen. When we did accomplish it, it was pretty amazing. It was a tough goal."
   Crook County opened the 4A state tournament with, arguably, the program's biggest win to date. The Cowgirls took the No. 3 ranked Gresham Gophers into a down to the wire third game and narrowly prevailed, 15-13. The loss sent the eight-time champion Gophers reeling into the consolation bracket and made the Cowgirls the buzz of the event - the small team from central Oregon who suddenly had a chance to win it all.
   Crook County ended up losing its last two games of the tournament but finished in fifth place overall. It was the highest finish of any team in school history and, maybe more importantly, legitimized Crook County as a bona fide power among the state ranks.
   The Cowgirls will lose three players to graduation this year. It is a loss which will be deeply felt as all three were all-conference selections.
   "They are fantastic girls," Honl said. "They are going to be hard to replace."
   Honl labeled the three players; Rhea Wortman, Chelsea Reeher and Heather Gerke; as her general, her inspiration and her heart.
   "Her leadership is just something I've always wanted in a player," she said of Wortman, a two-time IMC player of the year.
   "She always has something positive to say," Honl said of Reeher. "She brings the big block. She's humble."
   "[Heather] always had a smile on her face," she added. "She goes for any ball. Anytime, anywhere."
   The Cowgirls will be led next year by junior Kimber Duncan, Crook County's other all-IMC selection.
   She admits the road might be a little tougher but is hoping for just as much success.
   "I plan to repeat this again next year," Honl boasted. "And I think we have the players to do it."
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