Victoria Jacobsen
The Bulletin

Class 5A

Bend

Coach: Kristin Cooper (ninth season)

2014: 15-8 overall, 7-1 IMC (T-first); lost in fourth-place match of state tournament

Outlook: The Lava Bears lost a crop of talented seniors from last year’s tournament run — including IMC player of the year Callie Kruska — but Cooper says this year’s squad has enough grit to get the job done. “We have some tough serving — that will be a weapon for us,” Cooper says. “They’re fighters; they go after everything. We’ll win some long rallies and shut other teams down.” Junior Tatiana Ensz, who earned second-team IMC honors as an outside hitter last season, is among the key returners for the Lava Bears, who have finished in the top six of Class 5A in each of the last three seasons.

Mountain View

Coach: Kate Hunter (first season)

2014: 9-10 overall, 4-4 IMC (third); lost in play-in round

Outlook: Mountain View has just three players back from last year’s squad, but first-year coach Kate Hunter says a large class of juniors will make the Cougars formidable opponents on the defensive backrow. “We have a really great defensive team,” Hunter says, noting that three of the six juniors are defensive specialists. Hunter, who spent the last three seasons as an assistant coach at Bend High, says the Cougars are also working to speed up play on offense. “This year we bring a more dynamic front row and a stronger right side with Karlee Duncan moving to the right,” she says, referring to the senior who earned IMC honorable mention as a middle blocker last season.

Redmond

Coach: Lindsey Bogason (second season)

2014: 0-17 overall, 0-8 IMC (fifth)

Outlook: Redmond has gone two seasons without a win and has yet to record a conference victory since joining the IMC in 2012, but Bogason says an influx of new players have brought “fresh energy” to practices. “We’re already a lot stronger mentally and physically than we were last year,” Bogason says. “We’re holding them accountable more in practice, and that’s made the level (of play) increase quite a bit.” The Panthers have lost Jordan Holmes and Meghan Hansen from last year’s team, but Bogason says this year’s team will have more depth and flexibility. “Everyone on the team can play multiple positions,” Bogason says. “We really have a lot of options.”

Ridgeview

Coach: Doug Magee (first season)

2014: 12-9 overall, 2-6 IMC (fourth)

Outlook: The Ravens struggled in conference play during their first season as a 5A school, but first-year coach Doug Magee says this year’s young squad — which includes two freshmen and five sophomores — might just be the Bad News Bears of the IMC. “I think we’re going to be the sleeper team,” Magee says. “Our fundamentals is what we’re working on. They’re going to climb up that ladder slowly, but as a whole I’m really proud of where they’re at.”

Summit

Coach: Jill Waskom (ninth season)

2014: 19-7 overall, 7-1 IMC (T-first); won fourth-place match of state tournament

Outlook: Waskom has plenty of positive things to say about this year’s Summit team, such as ball control, serving and aggressive defense. The Storm, who have made deep runs in the state tournament in eight of the last nine years, count setter Jordan Waskom, middle blocker Haley Smith and outsider hitter Haydn Quatre among the key returners from last year’s team. “I think they want to step on the court and be competitive every time,” Waskom says. “Right now that’s all they’re focusing on each point and each set and not looking ahead, just constantly and consistently being competitive.”

Class 4A

Crook County

Coach: Rosie Honl (20th season)

2014: 22-8 overall, 9-1 TVC (first); won third-place match of state tournament

Outlook: Last season was an “off year” by Crook County standards, but with much of the team returning, Honl says, “it’s probably going to be one of our best years ever.” The Cowgirls graduated Karlee Hollis, Kayla Hamilton and Laken Berlin, but Honl says many of her younger players have enough talent to challenge team veterans for playing time.

Madras

Coach: Caron Smith (first season)

2014: 27-6 overall, 9-1 TVC (second); won fourth-place match of state tournament

Outlook: The White Buffaloes took home a fourth-place trophy at the state tournament last season, but with just two players returning, first-year coach Caron Smith says this is not last year’s Madras squad. “We’re trying to get a new program going and work on our confidence and some of those other things that have taken a back seat in the past few years,” Smith says. “We’re not tall — my tallest girls are 5-foot-7 — we’re not going to be winning on the net, we’ll be picking balls up off the floor.” Smith says Jordan Patt and libero Celeste Morning Owl have stepped into leadership roles with the “scrappy” Madras side.

Sisters

Coach: Jason Myhre (first season)

2014: 26-2 overall, 10-0 Sky-Em (first); won state championship

Outlook: The defending 4A state champs have lost just two players to graduation — including 4A player of the year Nila Lukens — but new coach Jason Myhre says his team is firmly focused on the present. “It’s a new dynamic, people are playing positions they haven’t played in a while, and we’re all seeing it as a fresh new opportunity,” Myhre says. “Last year is gone in their eyes and this year is a whole new year.” Allie Spear, Jessie Brigham, Hawley Harrer and Alex Hartford are all returning for the Outlaws, who have not lost a Sky-Em match in five years. “We know we’ve got all the skills in the world, but we’re seeing a bonding happening between the players, that they’re understand each other without speaking to each other on the court,” Myhre says. “It’s really been fun watching that develop.”

Class 3A

La Pine

Coach: Lindsey Spring (first season)

2014: 5-14 overall, 0-10 MVC (sixth)

Outlook: The Hawks do not have much depth — the roster lists just eight girls — but first-year coach Lindsey Spring says her team’s natural athleticism and years of familiarity might help La Pine to its first league victory in six years. “These girls have been playing multiple sports together for year,” Spring says. “They’re synergy is one of our biggest strengths. They know each other’s next move, even before I know what they’re going to do.” Spring says this year is a fresh start for the Hawks, who have had four coahces in as many years. “Even my returning varsity players haven’t seen a lot of playing time,” Spring says. “Our mantra is new team, new attitude.”

Class 2A

Culver

Coach: Randi Viggiano (sixth season)

2014: 30-4 overall, 10-0 CBC (first); won third-place match of state tournament

Outlook: Viggiano says she expects another strong season from the Bulldogs, who have finished in the top four at the state tournament in each of the past four years. “Emma Hoke is a great libero, and she grounds our defense in the back row,” Viggiano says. Lynse Schonneker, Jenny Vega and Margie Beeler are also back for Culver, but the Bulldogs graduated two-time 2A player of the year Shealene Little. “We’re very diverse; we have a lot of different options,” Viggiano says. “They’re a really fun bunch, and I can’t wait

Class 1A

Central Christian

Coach: Jen Stevens (second season

2014: 0-14 overall, 0-13 MVL (10th)

Outlook: After last year’s winless season — when Stevens had difficulty finding six players to put on the floor — the Tigers expect to earn a couple victories. “I’ve got a couple really good setters and really good pacers,” Stevens says. “If we can pass and serve we’re going to be a strong team.” Stevens says of her team, which currently includes eight healthy players and has responded well to the introduction of a new statistics-based system.

Gilchrist

Coach: Amberlee Solito (first season)

2014: 6-12 overall, 4-9 MVL (eighth)

Outlook: Three years removed from their last playoff appearance, the Grizzlies return this season looking to continue climbing up the Mountain Valley League standings and make their way back to the postseason.

Trinity Lutheran

Coach: Greg Clift (fifth season)

2014: 24-4 overall, 13-0 MVL (first); lost in fourth-place match of state tournament

Outlook: Clift says senior Allison Jorge may be the best 1A server in the state, while Emily Eidler, Mariah Murphy and Kenzie Smith will also be returning from last season’s league champion team. “We hope to be in the running again for a state playoff berth,” says Clift, who has led the Saints to the playoffs in each of the past two years.

It was a disappointing result by Crook County standards only. After eight consecutive Class 4A titles — the longest championship streak in OSAA volleyball history — the Cowgirls settled for third place after losing to Sisters in the state semifinals last November.

But if there is anyone who could put such a result in perspective, it is Rosie Honl, now in her 20th season as the Crook County coach.

“It was a bittersweet loss; it was nice to see someone else win the title,” Honl says, noting her own granddaughter was on the victorious Outlaws team that went on to claim the 4A state championship.

While the first playoff loss in nine years brought some of the Cowgirls to tears, Honl recalls her thoughts drifting to two Mapleton High School students who were killed while driving to the coast the previous day.

“That’s something to cry about,” Honl says. “If this is the worst thing that happens to you, you’ve had a darn good life.”

But make no mistake: Honl wants to see her team back in the state finals this year. And with a team full of returning players, it seems like a strong possibility.

Junior setter Abby Smith says missing out on last year’s title has had a noticeable effect on the team’s focus during the past eight months.

“It was different, but I think it was good for us at the same time, because it showed us we need to step it up more and give it all we got,” Smith says. “I knew I needed to step it up and have a bigger role (on the team).”

Honl agrees that recent practices have been as competitive as ever.

“We take stats at every single practice, and they crowd around the white board and look to see (where they are),” Honl says. “I call it ‘the cauldron,’ and we throw the stats in it and that determines who’s going to play.”

The one problem facing the Cowgirls, Honl says, is that they might be a little too nice. The coach says she is still trying to convince her players they can strike the ball aggressively without injuring each other.

“They are the tightest group of kids I’ve ever had, but they don’t want to hurt each other,” Honl says. “They’re just so nice, I want to get a little toughness in them.”

But other than sharpening that competitive edge, Honl says her players are uniquely prepared as they enter the season. Honl has been the coach at Crook County since before any of her current players were born, and some have been playing under her tutelage since the second grade.

“Everyone knows my words and keys, and they know what it means,” Honl says. “I have Cowgirl rules, our rules, and they all know them.”

And the success from past years keeps on giving. Crook County’s title streak began while current players were in elementary school, making playoff runs and trophies an expectation, not a lofty goal. (When Smith is asked about her goals for the season, for example, she mentions “taking state again” in the same breath as “being best friends with everybody on the team.”)

“I think it’s a huge bonus, because when I first got here it took a long time to build that confidence,” Honl says. “Now my girls, they’re not cocky, but they walk in the gym as confident young ladies, even the young ones who come in.”

That confidence aided Crook County last season, when the team got off to an 0-4 start before rebounding and reaching the state semifinals. But Honl says she expects this team to be even better.

“I think they’re capable of (winning a title); I’m shocked when they don’t,” Honl says. “I’m going to work my rear off coaching, and they have to work their rears off.”

— Reporter: 541-383-0305, vjacobsen@bendbulletin.com

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