Aug. 7, 2003
LARAMIE, Wyo. -
The 2002 volleyball season was filled with thrilling victories and falling records as the Barnes coaching era began. With all the accomplishments, including record breaking crowds, the 2003 season is one full of excitement and anticipation.
In his sophomore season at Wyoming, head coach Jim Barnes will look to improve on that success after taking the Cowgirls to one of their best finishes in several seasons. The Cowgirls recorded 20 victories in 2002, the most since 1989, which also included an 11-match winning streak. It was also the first time since 1983 that a first year head coach had won 20-matches. The team collected four tournament Championships at host schools Auburn, Central Michigan, Cornell University and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, and on Oct. 18, 2002, the Cowgirls defeated the then 16th ranked Utah Utes, in Laramie, 3-0. It was the first time since Nov. 1, 1997, when both teams were members of the WAC, that Wyoming had defeated the Utes and the 23rd time in the series history.
The Cowgirls will try to follow that up by welcoming back all six starters and 12 letterwinners, along with the addition of five newcomers to the 2003 squad. With all the returning players that saw significant playing time last season, Wyoming can only look to better an already impressive 20-11 overall mark and 5-9 conference record.
"The biggest difference in this team after a full year together is that they are more driven," said Barnes. "In returning all six starters and several other letterwinners, our goals as a team are very united. We're out to prove that Wyoming Volleyball will be at the top of the MWC and a national contender."
The 2003 squad will be comprised of six seniors, four juniors, two sophomores and five freshmen. With that amount of experience returning to the court and a year under their belt, Barnes feels confident that this group of players can continue to develop into a very competitive team.
"I'm impressed that this team really has the desire to succeed and be the best," he added. "Everyone is more aggressive, vocal and handles situations in a positive way. I'm also proud that the players are becoming more unselfish by putting the team and their teammates first."
Several individuals will be a big part of the Cowgirls success this season with both their playing experience and leadership ability, which includes senior Michele Rauter. An All-Mountain West Conference selection in 2002, Rauter returns as the Cowgirls leading honors candidate, after averaging 4.35 kills, 2.98 digs and a .267 hitting percentage.
"Our seniors will definitely provide great leadership and motivation for this team," said Barnes. "Michele (Rauter) and Sara (Maytorena) will provide consistency, passion and focus for our team, but in order to beat the teams in this conference everyone will need to step it up."
The other returning starters senior Leah Powers and juniors Amy Doman, Vanessa Latimer, Sara Maytorena and Jill Roslund will also play a large role on the court this season. Maytorena led the Cowgirls in hitting percentage (.283) and blocks (1.13 bpg), while Doman finished her sophomore campaign with 1,337 assists, which was second in the conference. In her first season of competition, Powers averaged 2.03 kills and 1.05 blocks per game, while Latimer and Roslund chipped in 2.16 digs and 2.21 kills per game respectively. Several other individuals expected to be in the mix will be Katy Brown, Liz McDuffie, Amanda Miller, Hana Perlee, Lindsey Roebken and Megan Shuster.
"One of our strengths is that we are more balanced offensively," Barnes said. "We have solid ball control, serving skills and great teamwork. If those things come together and we continue to improve our blocking and defense, I feel we are capable of beating anyone."
In the off-season, the Cowgirls brought in five freshmen from the high school level. They include Sara Hinrichs (5-4, libero, Windsor, Colo.), Kaylan McGary (6-1, middle blocker, Laramie, Wyo.), Stacy Johnson (5-9, defensive specialist, Laramie, Wyo.), Andrea Seele (5-11, outside hitter, Johnstown, Colo.) and Adriane Smith (6-1, opposite hitter, Denver, Colo.). With the addition of the talented newcomers, Barnes feels they will not only provide more depth, but each could really compete for valuable playing time entering the 2003 campaign.
"Overall, I feel very optimistic about our newcomers and what they can provide to this program. Each one of them have competitive attitudes, which will help them adjust to this level of play."
The 2003 schedule will be both competitive and challenging for this Cowgirl team, as they will hit the road early and often during their pre-conference schedule. They open up against Baylor, Houston, and Ole Miss at the Baylor Classic, on August 29-30, in Waco, Texas. On Sept. 5-6, they will host the Cowgirl Classic in Laramie welcoming Sam Houston State, San Jose State and Weber State. Back on the road, they will head out again to the Hampton Inn/Jacksonville University Classic in Jacksonville, Florida with matches against Baylor, Florida International, and Jacksonville University, and then wrapping up tournament play at the Montana State Wingate Invitational, Sept. 19-20 in Bozeman, Montana with match-ups against Gonzaga, Marquette and Montana State. The Cowgirls will also have several non-conference match-ups, which include Boise State, Creighton, Denver and Montana, before entering MWC play.
"Our 2003 schedule will be much more competitive and demanding from a year ago," Barnes added. "Each match will prepare us for conference play and push this team to perform at their best every night. The non-conference schedule should also prepare us for a very competitive conference schedule."
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 up and coming teams UNLV and San Diego State. Each team will be playing in a home and away series. Wyoming will also face Air Force and New Mexico during the conference season.
"Once again, the Mountain West Conference will be one of the elite conferences in the nation," said Barnes. "The early schedule will help prepare us for MWC play, which is important, because every team will be tough to earn a victory against."
The Mountain West Conference Volleyball Championships will be hosted this year by San Diego State University in San Diego, Calif. Each team in the conference will qualify for the single-elimination tournament, which begins on Thursday November 20, 2003 and runs through Saturday, November 22, 2003.