Aug. 17, 2000
LARAMIE, Wyo. -
The Wyoming Volleyball team enters the 2000 season with both familiarfaces, and a group of new and upcoming players. The Cowgirls are lookingto improve on a 9-21 overall mark and 3-11 record in their first seasonof Mountain West Conference competition.
Heading into her fifth season at Wyoming, head coach Susan Judgewelcomes back three starters and four letterwinners from the 1999 squad.
"In returning three starters, it really goes back to a confidencelevel, because the skill and talent levels are there. We just have tobring those three players and a group of six together, and have thechemistry and confidence to execute. If we can do that, the confidencewill definitely come and success will result as well."
The 2000 Wyoming squad will be made up of three seniors, two juniors,one sophomore, one redshirt freshman and seven freshmen. But despitesome of the squad's inexperience, Judge envisions a group of playerswho should develop into a very formidable team.
"The team, as a whole, will be much improved over last season," Judgesaid. "I think they've learned a lot about themselves individually, andeach player has matured a great deal through the trials and tribulationsthat come from having such a young team. They've gotten some experience,which allowed them to grow up faster than they would just watching fromthe sidelines, and that will be a benefit for our team this fall."
"Throughout the spring, I also saw great deal of improvement in theareas of individual maturity and skill work. It's important that wecarry all of our improvements over into the fall with both ourindividual and team performances. Our newcomers should also provide goodbalance. We will still be a young team, but I think the team chemistryand personality should be improved from a year ago, and will be a factorin our success this season." In the off-season, the Cowgirls brought intwo college transfers and seven freshmen from the high school level.Judge feels the addition of the talented newcomers will provide her teamwith more depth entering the 2000 campaign.
"The incoming players will be a great compliment to our alreadyexisting team. They are all congenial, but competitive and that's whatwe're looking for in our players."
"Lori Sanford had the benefit of training with us in the spring. Shehas been in our system, which is important for a middle blocker, and ithelped her transition to the pace of the game at the Division I level.She will definitely contribute to both the middle blocker position andour blocking scheme."
"Melissa Robinett is a player we will look for to play at the rightsideposition, but she also has the potential to play at the middle blockerspot. She's a strong athlete, and has a lot to offer once she gets usedto our system. She will be a definite force for us, whether she plays inthe middle or the rightside."
"Stefanie Snyder comes into the season with a year of collegeexperience at the setter position, and should really challenge for thestarting spot. It's very important in the setting position that there issome healthy competition. I think Stefanie will be a strong competitorand contender, as well as a team leader."
"Katy Brown is another setter we've brought in with solid skills. Sheis a competitive athlete, and is also a very coachable player with astrong work ethic."
"Michele Rauter will first have to make the adjustment of coming to theUnited States from Canada, plus all the adjustments a freshman has tomake. Michele is an aggressive player, which carries over into heroffensive and defensive game. She should really add a spark to our teamin those areas."
"Katie Jarman is a real team player. I think she will bring strongleadership abilities and fit in with the program very quickly. The keyfor her is to learn how to hit at this level and against a bigger block.She will also make herself a viable and active part of our team, becauseof her defensive skills and ball control."
Judge will look to several people this season in leadership roles,especially her returning starters. Seniors Melody Friehauf (middleblocker), Jamie Burke (rightside hitter) and junior Rachel Lau (middleblocker), along with several others will be expected to make strongcontributions this season.
"Melody Friehauf, who has been All-Conference the past two years andmade numerous All-Tournament teams, has to the be the player that comesthrough for us day in and day out," Judge felt. "But quite honestly, Ithink anyone has the potential to step up and provide some leadershipfor us. Jamie Burke, as a senior, is another person that knows theropes, and can help in the leadership area. Going into her junior year,Rachel Lau has played in this league for two years, and could also carrysome of the load. The main thing that we want is a team effort, so wedon't necessarily rely on Melody, and balance out our attack wereeveryone contributes."
Judge anticipates the Wyoming tradition of strong blocking willcontinue, but will also look to some of the other positions to take onsome responsibility.
"Our depth and experience certainly lies in the middle blockerpositions," Judge feels. "However, in better passing, we hope todevelop our rightside and outside hitters a little bit more. We wantthem to have an opportunity to look at better passes and sets, insteadof just keeping the ball in play. I think we have an aggressive group ofhitters all the way around, so we want to have a more balanced attack.The spring was really good for us offensively. Our timing was good, webecame more aggressive and controlled, so I'm very excited about thepotential there."
"I think one of our biggest strengths is that we have some reallydynamic athletes, who are coming into their own as far as skill levelsand applying their athleticism to their game. It's a strong point whenyou have experienced starters coming back, which should allow you togrow and develop beyond what you did the previous season. I also thinkour newcomers will fill in the gaps at some of the starting positions,and our team depth will challenge each of the players individually, andraise the overall level of play."
"We have some weaknesses in a couple of areas. We're stillinconsistent in our play, and our ball control is a little questionable.But through considerable competition that area will stabilize, and wecan develop the offense from that. However, we want to focus on thebasics. Our ball control and other weaknesses can be overcome fromtraining and gaining experience."
That consistency on the offensive side of the ball will have to comefrom several players, who will need to step up this season.
"The experience factor is a big key. Melody still needs to be thestabilizer for us. She's been a big part of our team for the past threeyears, and we expect a lot out of her," Judge said. "But with some ofthe young kids gaining experience and competing in the conference, theyshould really have an idea what's needed to be successful."
"After last spring, I really saw some areas of Jamie's (Burke) gameimprove, especially her passing. That's an area she needed to improveupon, and it really had affected her game. When her passing is on, sheis an effective hitter and blocker. Also, her playing experience will besomething we will rely on at the outside hitter position."
With the return of senior Melody Friehauf and junior Rachel Lau at themiddle-blocker positions, along with the addition of Lori Sanford,Wyoming could possibly have one of the top blocking tandems in theMountain West Conference. Friehuaf, a First Team All-MWC selection lastseason, recorded a team high 144 blocks, which was third in theconference. Lau continued to gain valuable experience in her second yearfinishing with 93 blocks.
"Melody continues to be our point of stability. She's very reliable,consistent and certainly leads by example both on and off the court. Shewill need to continue to be a leader and role model on this team as webring in the younger players. She's a player that opponents will bekeying in on, both offensively and defensively, at the net."
"Rachel has really established herself in the middle blocker position.She has seen a significant amount of playing time, and has reallylearned how to compete at this level. She gained a lot of confidencefrom last season, and will definitely be challenged this year becauseof our depth at the middle blocker position. I think competition is goodfor athletes, and that will be something which will keep her focused."
This season, Wyoming enters their second season of competition in theMountain West Conference. The Cowgirls will face fierce competitionevery night against several top schools, which include Air Force,Brigham Young, Colorado State, New Mexico, UNLV, Utah and San Diego State. They will once againplay each of those teams in a home and away series.
"As far as the conference goes, it's going to be the same knockdown,drag-out that it is every year. We're really looking forward to it, andthere will be a great deal of competition between several of the teams,who challenged one another last season. There really was only a two-windifference between the 4th place and 8th place teams, which sayssomething for the competitiveness of the league. BYU and CSU are onceagain going to be tough, and Utah has a lot of returning players. Ifeel that anything is possible if we establish our passing game andallow our offense to develop. Our non-conference matches should alsolead well into the conference schedule in developing competitiveness,and confidence in winning. If we can establish that confidence, theconference will be a tough challenge, but something we can be successfulat."
The 2000 non-conference schedule will be highlighted by matches againstseveral NCAA tournament teams. The Cowgirls start their season out onthe road as they face Oregon, UT-San Antonio, Mississippi and SamHouston State in the UT-San Antonio Volleyball Classic on Sept. 1 and2. Wyoming will continue their travels at the UW-Milwaukee Tournamenton Sept. 8 and 9, when they will go up against Austin Peay, Portland and1999 NCAA Participant UW-Milwaukee. They will also host the CowgirlClassic on Sept. 15-16 with Xavier, Pittsburgh and Wisc.-Green Baytraveling to Laramie. The Cowgirls will also have several othernon-conference match-ups, which include Denver, Loyola-Chicago,Loyola-Marymount, Notre Dame, UT-Arlington, Utah State and Weber State,before entering MWC play.
"Overall, the first part of the season will be a big challenge, butthat's what a young team needs. They need to be on the court gainingexperience, which is really how they can mature. I feel that's somethingwe're really providing for our student-athletes," added Judge. "I'm alsoexcited about the conference tournament being in Ft. Collins this year.It should provide an opportunity for our fans to support us. It will bea little different because the tournament is a week earlier this year,but hopefully this will be a positive and our fans will get a chance tosee us."
In all, the Cowgirls will be playing seven teams that participated inthe NCAA Tournament (BYU, Colorado State, Loyola-Chicago, Loyola-Marymount, Notre Dame, Utah, Wisc.-Milwaukee).
The Mountain West Conference Championship will be held this year in Ft.Collins, Colo. Each team in the conference will qualify for thesingle-elimination tournament, which begins on Wednesday November 15 andruns through Saturday, November 18.