Cowgirls Set for Season Opener

Wyoming at Purdue: Live Stats | Live Video (subscription)

Wyoming v. Kentucky: Live Stats

Wyoming v. Washington State: Live Stats

The University of Wyoming volleyball program will debut the 2016 season at the Purdue Mortar Board Premier this weekend. UW will face No. 20 Purdue at 8 a.m. MT, and No. 24 Kentucky at 3 p.m. on Friday in West Lafayette, Ind., before taking on Washington State on Saturday at 11 a.m. The match against Purdue will have live streaming video through BTN Plus on for a subscription fee, while all matches will have live stats.

“We know the schedule is a challenge,” UW head coach Chad Callihan said. “But looking at this team, it’s one of the most well rounded groups we’ve had in a while in terms of depth. That gives us some options during games if there is a different match up we are looking for. We feel comfortable looking down the bench this year and know we have capable players that can fill in during a number of situations. Overall, the team has adapted very well and I feel good about where we are at with this group. This weekend is a great opportunity for us to begin the season. There is a lot we can take away as we face these teams.”

Wyoming returns to write a whole new story for 2016 with 11 letterwinners from a year ago, including five starters. Last season, UW finished with a 23-7 overall record and a 13-5 mark in conference action. UW’s winning percentage (.767) was second best in Wyoming history, behind the 1989 season (24-7, .774), as the 13 conference wins were a program best. Wyoming was selected to finish third in the Mountain West preseason poll. Senior Laura Beach was the lone representative for UW on the seven-member preseason All-MW team.

“The seniors balance themselves very well,” added Callihan. “Laura (Beach), Kayla (Slofkiss) and Courtney (Chacon) have all played vital roles for us over the last few years and have notched a lot of matches in their careers. They are positive and lead in their own ways, and each do a great job mentoring and leading this group the way we want them to be. I’ve had about as much fun with this group as I’ve had in a while and I think you can contribute a lot of that to the seniors.”

The brown and gold return All-MW selections Laura Beach and Kayla Slofkiss, including MW Freshman of the Year, Reed Copeland. Last season, Copeland led the nation in blocks (190) and blocks per set (1.68) and was the only freshman within the top-30 for both categories. Beach led the team in hitting percentage (.337), while Slofkiss led UW with 306 kills and was second in the MW with 14 double-doubles. Senior Courtney Chacon begins her final season for UW currently ranked ninth all-time in assists. She has recorded 2,358 during her career with the Cowgirls. Other letterwinners returning include juniors Lily Austin, Marley Taylor and Dani Westfall, sophomores Cori Aafedt, Mattison DeGarmo, Emily Lewis and Laurel Place.

The Purdue Boilermakers enter the 2016 season ranked 20th in the AVCA Preseason Poll and were picked to finish ninth in the Big Ten preseason poll, voted by the conference head coaches. In 2015, they went 23-10 overall and 13-7 in the Big Ten before ending their season in the second round of NCAA tournament. The Boilermakers return seven letterwinners from a year ago, three that had starting roles. AVCA Honorable-Mention selections Faye Adelaja and Danielle Cuttino are the top returners for Purdue, as they averaged 2.38 and 2.04 kills per set, respectively.

Kentucky enters the season as the 24th-ranked team in the AVCA Preseason Poll. The Wildcats were picked to finish third in the SEC this season, after they return 11 players from a year ago and ended the season in the first round of the NCAA tournament. They will be led by middle blocker Kaz Brown and defensive specialist Ashley Dusek, as each were voted to the All-SEC volleyball team last week. Brown finished her sophomore season third in the nation in blocks per set (1.61) and seventh in total blocks (180). Dusek led the SEC in digs a year ago, averaging 5.05 per set. She was also named the SEC Libero of the Year and AVCA Honorable-Mention during her sophomore season.

Washington State comes into the season with 12 returning letterwinners, six of which were starters. They finished the 2015 season with a 16-16 overall record and took ninth in the Pac-12 conference with a 5-15 record. Senior Kyra Holt was selected as the lone Cougar on the 2016 Preseason All-Pac 12 volleyball team. Holt was a 2015 All-Pac 12 selection and a member of the 2016 Pac-12 All-Star team that competed in China this summer. She led WSU in kills per set (3.91) and points per set (4.51).

UW’s weekend tilt in West Lafayette marks the first of three road non-conference tournaments for the Cowgirls. Wyoming will be thoroughly tested early in its campaign, as it will face four preseason ranked opponents during the first two weekends. Additionally, it marks the first time since 1996 that UW will begin its season with more than one ranked opponent in the opening weekend of play. UW played No. 12 Long Beach State and No. 17 UC-Santa Barbara in 1996 at the Long Beach State Invite Aug. 30-31.