July 15, 2005
LARAMIE, Wyo. -
With the 2005 Cowgirl volleyball season fast approaching, second year head coach Pat Stangle along with a group of returning players and talented newcomers will look to build upon their accomplishments from a year ago and move ahead in providing this program with a solid foundation for the future.
In his first season, Stangle guided the Cowgirls to a 13-14 overall record and a fifth place finish in the MWC with a 6-8 mark, while outside hitter Rachel Smith garnered Co-Freshman Player of the Year honors. On Oct. 15, 2004, the Cowgirls defeated the BYU Cougars, in Laramie, 3-1. It was the first time since Nov. 17, 1989 when both teams were members of the High Country Athletic Conference and only the fourth in the series history. Wyoming also won a home and away conference series for the first time since becoming members of the MWC as they swept Air Force and New Mexico.
"I am very optimistic about the 2005 season," said Stangle. "We are beginning our second season as a staff and our offensive and defensive systems have been implemented. Our returning players are more comfortable with what we are doing."
Despite three starters returning this season, it will still be quite a rebuilding year for this year's team as they only return a total of seven letterwinners and no seniors, while welcoming in seven newcomers to the squad. Four of the seven returning letterwinners played in 20 matches or more in 2004, which included three true freshmen and one sophomore. Of the returning letterwinners, underclassmen also accounted for 122 matches and 391 games a year ago. Unfortunately, they will also have to replace the loss of four experienced seniors.
"We will be young, but the incoming players also have a feel for how we do things, as well. If we can stay healthy and continue to make progress, we will continue to move forward as a program."
The Cowgirl squad will be comprised of four juniors, five sophomores and five freshmen. One of those top returners is sophomore Rachel Smith who returns this season after earning MWC Co-Freshman of the Year honors in 2004. An outside hitter from Thousand Oaks, Calif., Smith led the Cowgirls in kills while ranking third in the conference in that category, along with a .257 hitting percentage and 2.40 digs per game.
"She had a great freshman year," Stangle said. "The challenge this season will be for her to continue improving her game and helping this team move ahead in the conference. Both tasks will be challenging, but if Rachel approaches this thing correctly, it can be done."
"Leadership is a function of taking care of one's own game first."
Cowgirl Head Coach Pat Stangle
The other returning starters are sophomores Lauren Scott and Angie Hellbaum, along with juniors Andrea Seele and Kaylan McGary, and sophomores Emily Veenker and Michelle Weydert will be a big part of the Cowgirls success this season with both their playing experience and leadership ability.
"Leadership is a function of taking care of one's own game first," Stangle said. "Our players are still in a learning phase. I expect a leader or leaders to emerge this season as the players become more and more comfortable with their individual roles on the team. It is only then that they can begin to think about being a team leader."
Scott closed out her freshman campaign averaging 2.49 kills, a team leading 1.19 blocks and a .295 hitting percentage. Andrea Seele played in 20 matches with seven starts and averaged 1.07 kills, while Angie Hellbaum played in 26 matches with starts in 13 of those and chipped in 1.70 kills and 1.07 digs. Michelle Weydert played in 13 matches and averaged 2.69 digs per game in a season that was cut short by injuries, and Emily Veenker saw action in 14 matches with three starts. Kaylan McGary was out during the 2004 season due to an injury.
"I think having returning players who have a better understanding of what we are trying to accomplish and why we are doing the things we do, will be to our advantage this season. With a young team, though, each and every day brings new and exciting challenges. Overcoming those challenges and maintaining our composure, both individually and collectively, will be something that we will have to be cognizant of all the time."
In the off-season, the Cowgirls brought in five freshmen and two junior college transfers. They include Jessie Carlson (6-2, MB, Cheyenne, Wyo.), Samantha Eley (5-8, Libero, Lincoln, Neb.), Carissa Lee (5-5, Libero, Eugene, Ore.), Kelsey Loop (6-0, OH, Valley Center, Kansas), Jamie Schilling (5-4, S, Casper, Wyo.), Kara Wagner (5-10, OH/MB, Washington, Ill.) and Tasha Weishahn (5-8, S, Beatrice, Neb.)
With the addition of the talented newcomers, Stangle feels they will not only provide more depth, but each could really compete for valuable playing time entering the 2005 campaign.
"We've added a very nice group of newcomers to complement our returning players. Every position will be challenged and everyone will compete for playing time immediately. The rate at which this group progresses both individually and collectively will determine just how successful this team will be this year."
This year's schedule will be both competitive and challenging for this young Cowgirl team, as they will have a balance of home and road matches during their pre-conference schedule.
On August 26-27, they will travel to a tournament in Seattle, Washington to face Gardner-Webb and Montana State. They will open up at the UniWyo Sports Complex by hosting Boise State and Northern Colorado at the Wyoming Cowgirl Classic, on Sept. 1-3, in Laramie. Back out on the road, they will wrap up tournament play at the Mean Green Classic, Sept. 9-10 in Denton, Texas with match-ups against Centenary, North Texas and Prairie View A&M. The Cowgirls will also have four non-conference matches against Florida A&M, New Mexico State, Texas Tech and Utah Valley State before entering MWC play.
"We have a nice mixture of teams, both at home and on the road during the earlier part of the season, which should prepare us for the demands of a tough Mountain West Conference schedule. With the addition of TCU to the conference, as well as some coaching changes that occurred in the off season, the Mountain West will be as formidable as ever and should continue its history of sending multiple teams to the NCAA Tournament in December."
This year, Wyoming will once again be challenged by a tough Mountain West Conference schedule. The Cowgirls will see the likes of national powers Brigham Young, Colorado State, and Utah along with Air Force, New Mexico, UNLV and San Diego State. Another addition to this year's schedule will be TCU who joins the MWC this season. Each team will be playing in a home and away series. In all, the Cowgirls 2005 schedule includes four teams that participated in the NCAA Tournament (Colorado State, Florida A&M, New Mexico State, Utah). Two of the four teams also finished the season ranked in the final USA Today/AVCA Coaches Poll.
The Mountain West Conference Volleyball Championships will move to Las Vegas, Nev. this year. Each team in the conference will qualify for the single-elimination tournament, which begins on Tuesday, November 22, 2005 and runs through Saturday, November 26, 2005.