Cottage Grove sentinel. (Cottage Grove, Or.) 1909-current, March 11, 2015, Image 12

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Section B
Wednesday, March 11, 2015
South Lane County Sports and Recreation
Contact Sports, 942-3325 or e-mail
Cottage Grove begins season in search of new leaders
The Lions must make up for the loss of four seniors, who keyed last year's
dramatic run to the state playoffs
The Cottage Grove Sentinel
oming off of a last-place fi nish
in the Sky-Em in 2013, the only
direction that last year’s Cottage Grove
baseball team could go was up. By
mid-April the Lions had already bet-
tered their win total from the previous
season. But still, a 9-2 fi nish and a berth
to the state playoffs hardly seemed to
be in the cards.
Whether or not there was something
in the water during the fi nal month of
the Lions’ season, coach Dan Geiszler
will tell you that he never thought to
fi le photo
Cottage Grove's Zach Thoma-
son was a fi rst-team all-league
pitcher a year ago.
“Honestly, I never thought about it,”
he said of his team’s torrid fi nish. “I
know it’s a cliché, but we just thought
about the next game. Sometimes as
a coach you project out, but so many
things could have happened with teams
winning and not winning. We knew the
teams we had to beat, and that’s what
we focused on.”
Cottage Grove stood at 8-9 before
their stretch run, but Geiszler said he
had already seen what his team was ca-
pable of in a nonconference showdown
with Pleasant Hill in early April. The
Lions trailed the Billies 7-3 and were
down to their fi nal out with nobody on
base before rallying to win the game in
extra innings, 8-7.
Although Cottage Grove lost several
games afterward, Geiszler, who was
named Sky-Em League Coach of the
Year, said this was the turning point of
the season and the moment of belief for
many players.
“I knew we had that run in us because
we were starting to play well as a team,”
said senior pitcher Zach Thomason.
“And then it all came together when it
mattered the most.”
That conviction was tested and af-
fi rmed through a different set of cir-
cumstances in Cottage Grove’s May 12
game against Sweet Home. The Lions
led the Huskies 9-4 in the bottom of the
seventh before allowing them to tie it
up. But Cottage Grove did not fl inch.
It got three base hits and a scored a run
in the top of the eighth and shut down
Sweet Home to seal the victory.
Please see Baseball, Page 3B
Lions earn
After a runner-up fi nish in the
Sky-Em, four members of the
Cottage Grove girls' basketball
team were recognized on the
all-league ballot: Conner Borigo
shared player of the year honors
with Sutherlin's Miranda Men-
denhall; Taylor Sayles and Me-
lissa Thielman were named to the
second team, and Hannah Arnold
earned honorable mention. Kerry
Clawson was voted coach of the
"It means a lot to be recognized
by the other league coaches,"
said Borigo, who established a
new school record of 34 points
in a single game earlier this year.
"This has been a goal since my
freshman year."
Clawson said Borigo, who
totaled 490 points and 190 re-
bounds, was a very deserving
MVP candidate, pointing to all
the things opposing coaches did
to prepare for her.
The last Cottage Grove player
to be awarded league MVP was
Reed Levings in 2010.
League champion Sutherlin
placed six players on the all-
league ballot. Despite winning the
conference last year, only three
Lions were voted onto teams.
"I was relieved that my kids
were recognized," said Clawson.
photo by Top Dog Images
While the Cottage Grove boys'
basketball team struggled to a 1-
9 record, three Lions earned all-
league distinction: Kory Parent
was voted to the second team;
Blake Sentman and Chance Hop-
kins were named honorable men-
Junction City led the league
with three fi rst-team players, in-
cluding MVP Hayden Martinez.
Additionally, four Cottage
Grove winter-sports teams earned
OSAA Academic all-State awards.
Boys' and girls' basketball, and
boys' and girls' swimming each
had grade-point averages among
the top-10 in the state.
The Lions' football, volleyball
and boy's and girls' soccer pro-
grams were also recognized as
academic all-state teams.
Amber Walker blossomed in her fi rst season of sand volleball. She and her partner earned a featured appearance in the EVP World Finals.
Walker draws her line to the sand
Amber Walker (CGHS '08) is preparing for her
second season of professional beach volleball
The Cottage Grove Sentinel
mber Walker (CGHS — ’08)
has called many places home
over the past decade: Juneau, Cottage
Grove, Chicago, Portland and now, the
Bay Area. But this is not a case of gyp-
sy feet. Her urge to move comes from a
love for volleyball. Last year, Walker’s
desire to excel in the sand was rewarded
with a professional endorsement and a
featured appearance in the EVP World
Finals of Beach Volleyball.
Athlete of
the Week
At this juncture, it would be all too
easy to connect the dots of fate, but
that would underrate some very critical
measures on Walker’s part.
“With each move I’ve been driven by
opportunity,” Walker said. “The chanc-
es to pursue a dream are few and far be-
tween, and I think that we can make too
many assumptions about the opportuni-
ties we’ll have.”
After growing up in Alaska, Walker
moved to Cottage Grove for her se-
nior year of high school. While some
might have struggled with that transi-
tion, Walker embraced the challenge
and recognized the opportunity to play
more competitive volleyball. Taking
a team bus for games was also a wel-
come change for Walker, whose Juneau
Douglas High School team regularly
had to travel by boat or plane.
In her lone season with the Lions,
Walker earned all-Sky-Em League hon-
For a long time, Walker had aspired
to play in college, but she was unfamil-
iar with the recruiting game. Walker
thought that she could start and fi nish
the process during her senior year. But
as she would fi nd out, most players
had signed with schools before she had
made her fi rst contacts.
But Coley Pawlikowsk, who was then
the head coach at North Park University,
a Division III program in Chicago, saw
in Walker the potential for an elite-level
“When I watched her fi lm, her ath-
leticism jumped off the screen,” Paw-
likowski recalled. “I knew that I wanted
her in my gym, and the idea of helping
her grow and develop was very entic-
So, Pawlikowski promised to help
Walker take her game to the next level,
and Walker signed on as an outside-hit-
ter for the Vikings.
Please see Walker, Page 2B
Lions seek encore to breakthrough season
Seven players return
from last year’s 10-win
Cottage Grove
freshman Kim
Smith competed
alonside top high-
school bowlers
from around the
state at this past
weekend's all-star
tournament. By
consistently bowl-
ing in the 190s,
Smith helped her
team fi nish fi rst
out of 14 all-star
teams. Smith
qualifi ed for the
tournament by
placing fourth at
The Cottage Grove Sentinel
Kim Smith
fi le photo
Cottage Grove's Kale'a Galbreath earned second-team all-Sky-Em
League recognition as an outfi lder last year.
ottage Grove surpassed any
conceivable expectation in
2014 under fi rst-year head coach
Cheryl Frieze. With an overall re-
cord of 10-11, the Lions equaled
their combined win total of the pre-
vious fi ve seasons (!).
In spite of that, Cottage Grove
couldn’t help but walk away with a
sense of ‘what if.’ The Lions entered
the month of May at 10-5, but six
straight losses left them on the out-
side looking in on the postseason.
“It was the best season in quite a
few years for the program, so
Please see Softball, Page 3B