Cowgirl Volleyball Beginning To Produce Results


Entering his third year with the Cowgirl volleyball program, head coach Pat Stangle is starting to see results in the continuing process of building a program to contend in one of the top conferences in the country. Stangle feels this group of returning players, along with a good mix of newcomers gives them a solid foundation to contend this season.

"This will be our third year in the program and we look for continued improvement in our level of play, which hopefully will translate into an improved overall record and a higher Mountain West Conference finish."

"Our goal for the upcoming season is pretty simple: We want to get better every day," Stangle said. "Where we finish in the conference and our success in the post season depends on so many things, many of which are outside of our control. What we can control, however, is what we do in the gym every day. If we can improve every day, I will be satisfied."

Rachel Smith

In 2005, Stangle led the Cowgirls to a 12-16 overall record and a 7-9 mark in the Mountain West Conference for a sixth place finish in the league. The seven conference victories were the most since becoming members of the MWC. He also earned his 25th win as a Division I Coach as the Cowgirls defeated the New Mexico Lobos, 3-0, on Nov. 19, 2005 in Laramie.

Experience will be a key factor for the Cowgirls this year. Despite having only one senior, they still return five starters and eight letterwinners. Even though the focus will be on all of the veteran players on this year's team, they will also have a nice balance of youth coming in. With a solid core in place, it can only help the incoming players' transition in to the program.

Andrea Seele

"While we have five starters returning, we still will only have one senior, so we'll be relatively young, though we'll have a lot of experience," said Stangle. "For the first time since I've been here, we won't have to rely on so many freshmen from the beginning. We have a very talented freshmen class that will push our returning players' everyday in practice. I am really looking forward to getting into the gym and spending time with this team. There should be tremendous battles for every position."

Tasha Weishahn

The Cowgirl squad will be comprised of one senior, five juniors, three sophomores and six freshmen. Two of those key returners are senior Andrea Seele and junior Rachel Smith. Seele started in every match, leading the Cowgirls in hitting percentage .295 while averaging 2.41 kills per game. Smith returns after earning All-Conference honors during her sophomore campaign. She averaged a team leading 3.94 kills, while chipping in 2.37 digs and 29 service aces. Other individuals who will be expected to make contributions are the other returning starters Lauren Scott and Angie Hellbaum, along with setter Tasha Weishahn. Junior Michelle Weydert and sophomores Samantha Eley and Carissa Lee will also be a big part of the Cowgirls success this season with both their playing experience and leadership ability.

"Leaders will emerge as the season progresses, although we'll be looking to Andrea Seele and Rachel Smith to set a high standard every day," Stangle added. "With six freshmen in the gym for the first time, we'll also be expecting a lot from all of our other returning players."

Lauren Scott

Hellbaum played in all 28 matches with 17 starts and averaged 2.12 kills a year ago, while Lauren Scott averaged 2.01 kills and finished with a team leading 72 blocks. Setter Tasha Weishahn had an impressive freshman campaign with 11.42 assists per game and 2.25 digs. Michelle Weydert played in 27 matches and 95 games at the libero spot while leading the team in digs with 3.07 per game. Samantha Eley averaged 2.22 digs and led the way with 47 service aces while libero Carissa Lee finished with 296 digs (3.06 dpg) in her first year with the program.

In the off-season, the Cowgirls brought in six freshmen and one transfer. They include Karyn DenBoer (6-2, MB, Loveland, Colo.), Sara Hinrichs (5-4, LIB, Windsor, Colo.), Jessica Kagarise (S, 5-6, Monument, Colo.), Nicki Kent (MB, 6-1, Vancouver, Wash.), Micah Lines (OH, 5-10, Centerville, Utah), Annie Meyers (OH, 5-11, Redondo Beach, Calif.) and Jess Srajer (OH, 6-3, Vancouver, Wash.).

Angie Hellbaum

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 2006 campaign.

"With five starters and a significant number of key players returning, combined with a talented recruiting class, we have a chance to improve this year," said Stangle. "The thing that will determine our ultimate destination will be the rate at which we progress."

The 2006 schedule will be both competitive and challenging for this Cowgirl team, as they will have a balance of home and road matches during their pre-conference schedule.

Samantha Eley

To open up the non-conference season, they will travel to the CenturyTel/Classic Honda Premier, August 25-26, in San Marcos, Texas to face North Texas, Texas State and Texas Pan America. They will play their first home matches at the UniWyo Sports Complex by hosting Birmingham Southern, New Orleans and Southern Illinois at the Wyoming Cowgirl Classic, on Sept. 1-2, in Laramie. Back out on the road, they will wrap up tournament play at the Hilton Las Cruces Classic, Sept. 7-9, in Las Cruces, N.M. with match-ups against Akron, New Mexico State and the University of San Diego. The Cowgirls will also have two non-conference matches against Denver and Northern Colorado mixed in with the conference schedule.

"I like our non-conference schedule, as I think it's very challenging, while at the same time it will allow us to work on the things we'll need to get in place for another difficult Mountain West Conference season."

Carissa Lee

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, San Diego State and TCU. Each team will be playing in a home and away series.

"It won't be easy. I think our conference continues to get better every year," said Stangle. "BYU, CSU and Utah still reside at the top of the Mountain. There are a large number of teams fighting to get up there and knock one or two of them off. It is certainly a goal of ours to be one of those teams."

Michelle Weydert

In all, the Cowgirls 2006 schedule includes five teams that participated in the NCAA Tournament (BYU, Colorado State, San Diego, Texas State and Utah). Two of the five teams also finished the season ranked in the final USA Today/AVCA Coaches Poll.

The Mountain West Conference Volleyball Championships will be held on the campus of UNLV at the Cox Pavillion in Las Vegas, Nev. Each team in the conference will qualify for the single-elimination tournament, which begins on Wednesday, November 22, 2006 and runs through Saturday, November 25, 2006.