A roller coaster finish

CC upsets Gresham, takes fith at state

by: FRED HOUSTON JR./CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Crook County volleyball players celebrate after their victory over Marshfield Friday night. The Cowgirls earned the program's first ever placement trophy at the 4A state tournament this weekend.

The Crook County Cowgirls scrapped, tumbled and dove their way to a fifth place performance at this year's 4A OSAA State Volleyball Championships.
   One of the smallest teams to make the tournament, the Cowgirls -- who don't boast a single player over six feet tall -- played the role of giant killer Friday afternoon opening play with a 25-22, 23-25, 15-13 defeat of third ranked Gresham.
   The win catapulted Crook County to a 3-0 performance Friday night and advanced them to the championship round on Saturday.
   The spikers began the morning with a 25-12, 25-23 dismantling of Lakeridge, earning their fourth straight victory of the weekend, but then came out flat in their semifinal match against Central Catholic, losing 25-12, 25-14.
   In the third place match, the exhausted Cowgirls showed little chance against the nationally ranked West Linn Lions and lost 25-15, 25-9.
   The Cowgirls finish the 2004 season 23-5 overall and come home with the program's first ever placement trophy at the state level.
   "It's the first time Crook County has ever won hardware in volleyball," said coach Rosie Honl. "We had a great run."
   Below is a breakdown of Crook County's six tournament games.
   Crook County 2, Gresham 1
   An ecstatic Rosie Honl faced a major dilemma after Crook County's 2-1 upset of Gresham, Friday afternoon.
   She couldn't find her team.
   Overcome with emotion, Honl ran from door to door outside the gymnasium looking for her victorious players. An OSAA official finally spotted the wayward coach and directed her to the appropriate locker room.
   "The complex is kind of confusing," she said. "I just wanted to reach them and tell them how fantastic they played."
   The Crook County volleyball team was rightfully beside themselves after opening tournament play with a victory over the state's third best team.
   The best of three series came down to the wire with game one going to the Cowgirls 25-22 and game two falling in the Gophers' favor 25-23. The third game was just as back and forth with neither team ever holding more than a two-point lead.
   The Cowgirls prevailed 15-13, earning, arguably, the program's biggest victory to date.
   "It's really big," said freshman Jessica Lea after the match. "It was awesome. We were so excited."
   Assistant coach Joel Kent echoed her statements.
   "That's the biggest one we've ever had," he said. "You're talking about a program with eight state titles and is always at the top."
   Rhea Wortman led the charge with seven kills and four aces while Kimber Duncan added 24 assists and Heather Gerke recorded seven digs.
   Crook County 2, Ashland 1
   The Cowgirls' enthusiasm almost got the best of them when Ashland jumped out to a 10-6 lead in game one.
   The Grizzlies held onto the advantage for a decisive 25-18 victory, but Crook County bounced back taking games two and three.
   Wortman, who finished the match with 16 kills, recorded her two most important points at the end of the third game.
   With her team holding a narrow 13-12 lead, Wortman stepped up with a powerful kill that put the Cowgirls at match point. Ashland rallied back to bring the score back to within one, but Wortman responded with another spike that deflected off two Grizzly defenders and out of bounds for a Crook County victory.
   "We got a little bit cocky," admitted Wortman, explaining her team's slow start. "Our warm-ups were a little dead. It took us until the third game to really get going."
   Crook County 2, Marshfield 0
   Crook County showed no sign of let down against Marshfield, starting things off with a 5-1 early lead.
   They took game one 25-18, then looked just as dominant in game two, winning 25-17.
   Chelsea Reeher led the attack with seven kills and two blocks and Duncan added a team high 17 assists.
   Angie Bailey, who played solid all night, contributed a balanced two kills, two blocks, two digs and one ace.
   Crook County 2, Lakeridge 0
   The spikers started off the Lakeridge contest with a 6-0 run and never looked challenged in a 25-12 victory.
   In the second game, the Pacers showed their teeth, jumping out on top early. Lakeridge led by as much as five before the Cowgirls battled back. Crook County tied the game up several times but did not hold the lead until Reeher found a hole in the Lakeridge defense that put the Cowgirls up 21-20.
   The contest reached a 23-23 stalemate before back-to-back Wortman kills sealed the victory, 25-23.
   "She had a nailer," said Honl. "She's our go-to girl when we're in trouble."
   With the win, Crook County advanced to the tournament's semifinals.
   Central Catholic 2, Crook County 0
   Crook County's memorable run came to a screeching halt Saturday afternoon with a 25-12, 25-14 lopsided loss to Central Catholic.
   The Cowgirls never seemed to get anything going in their first defeat of the tournament.
   Reeher, like the majority of the team, was at loss of words in explaining her team's performance.
   "I am not exactly sure what happened," she said. "It could have been a lot of things. There are a lot of factors that could have played a role."
   The loss eliminated Crook County from a shot at the championship and paired them off with defending champion West Linn for the third place game.
   West Linn 2, Crook County 0
   West Linn, who held the state's No. 1 ranking for the majority of the season, lived up to their hype in a quick 25-15, 25-9 defeat of the Cowgirls.
   Coming off a disappointing 2-1 loss to eventual champion Jesuit, the Lions regrouped for a dominating victory to claim third place in the tournament.
   "West Linn is a heck of a team," said Honl. "They have quite the duo up front."
   Despite finishing the tournament with two losses, the Cowgirls refused to leave with heavy hearts.
   "It feels good," said Gerke, commenting on her team's fifth place trophy. "We played our best. We played our hearts out."
   Crook County had two players make the all-tournament teams with Wortman selected to the first team and Duncan given the nod for the second team.
   Wortman compiled 38 kills throughout the two-day event, many of which were set up by Duncan's team high 106 assists.
   The Cowgirls will lose three players to graduation this year in Wortman, Gerke and Reeher. All three were all-conference selections.
   Honl, however, already has high hopes for the upcoming season.
   "Last year we went down there just happy to be there," said Honl. "This year we had more of a purpose to do something and next year will be even more. The girls now know what to expect."