The University of Wyoming Cowgirls Volleyball team believes that this could be their year. 18 years after their last NCAA tournament appearance and coming off two strong seasons, the Wyoming squad believes it will take a big step forward this year. Wyoming Public Radio’s Bob Beck has more.
BOB BECK: Wyoming actually has had some volleyball success, but that was many years ago. The Cowgirls appeared in three NCAA post season tournaments in an eight year period starting in 1986 and under Hall of Fame Coach Mike English, Wyoming advanced to the final eight one year. But since the last appearance in 1994, the team has mostly fallen on tough times.
There have been a few good teams, but Carrie Yerty wants more than that. Yerty is the Cowgirls Head Coach, she is a tall, thin, and athletic looking. She was a star college player at Washington State where she was named to a PAC 10 all decade team. As a head coach she later had several good teams at Memphis before coming to Wyoming in 2008. But that first year was tough. Wyoming won only five games versus 20 losses and the next year was a 13-18 season. But Yerty says while those teams were young, they changed everything.
CARRIE YERTY: I’m telling you that those kids from the first two years really gave me their heart and soul and that’s why our program has been able to grow so fast, because they really sold something and that was awesome.
JODI PURDY: I tell people that the lord brought me here, I have no other explanation.
BECK: That’s Jodi Purdy. Every team has a star, and on this very good team, Purdy is Wyoming’s star. She is the pre-season Mountain West Conference co-player of the year and many believe she will be Wyoming’s first Volleyball All American in over 20 years.
Purdy was heavily recruited and surprised many by picking Wyoming. But after meeting players from that 5-20 team, she knew Laramie was where she wanted to be.
PURDY impressed: When I came on my visit, I really loved the vision they had for this program. And that was one my desires was to come in and make an impact for a program. And not only have I felt that I did that for the program, but the program has done that for me as well.
BECK: With Purdy on the team, Wyoming had back to back 20 win seasons, but when the Cowgirls upset nationally ranked Colorado State last year, she knew Wyoming had finally arrived.
PURDY: That’s when it was a big turning point for our team was when we beat CSU and wow, this is a good team and if we beat a good team, that must mean we are a good team. And our confidence was through the roof and we were just so excited about the possibilities for our team and stuff.
BECK: Coach Yerty says after that match she saw a change in her team and it led to other big wins.
YERTY: The more often we got on the court the better we got and we really never had a valley. We just kept getting better and better and better.
BECK: Her players say that match helped, but a lot of that confidence comes from their coach. Camille Coffman has played for Yerty for four years…
CAMILLE COFFMAN: Now she just has a swag about her, like she knows we are good and when we walk into a gym she expects teams to be scared of us and she expects us to win. Do you have that same attitude when you walk in? Yeah, I do. Carrie’s talked to us a lot about we are finally at that point as a program where we know we are good and we can finally get some big wins.
BECK: Yerty says there is a reason she is confident.
YERTY: I believe in their work ethic, I believe in the effort they give me every day. I’ve got a team that carries a 3.6 something GPA. To me that’s amazing. Those kids, not only are they smart and dedicated in the classroom, but those characteristics carry over.
BECK: And the hope is that carries over into something special, like an NCAA appearance. As the Cowgirls warm-up during their opening match of the season, Chris and Barb Gunther are watching as usual. The Gunthers are two fans who have closely followed the Cowgirls for 30 years. They are cautiously optimistic.
BARB GUNTHER: This team is good, it is good.
CHRIS GUNTHER: In the last 15 years this is hands down the best team we’ve had here. We haven’t had a really successful team since the Mike English era and this is a team that really looks like it could do just as well as that team did.
BECK: Coach Yerty says when she came to Wyoming she had a five year plan. This is the fifth season and practices have been intensified and the schedule beefed up with one goal in mind.
YERTY: Clearly the NCAA tournament for the 5th year is the apple in the sky I guess. It’s the piece that we are reaching to grab for. And you know, we’ll shoot for the moon and if we fail we will grab a start on the way down.
BECK: Yerty and the players admit that falling short of the NCAA tournament would be a disappointment. But for now, the Wyoming Cowgirls don’t act like a team that plans to be disappointed. For Wyoming Public Radio, I’m Bob Beck