There are a lot of new faces on the Lady Grizz volleyball team this year, and many of them are young. With seven freshmen, six sophomores, three juniors and only two returning seniors, Ashlei Carroll and Kaitlyn Hayes, on the roster.
Coach Jamie Cooley said, though young, they are an enthusiastic bunch.
“I’m excited about these girls,” said Cooley. “They are incredibly hard workers with a lot of desire to win.”
Freshman players include Tori Steed, Gabie Christensen, Lizzy Crawford, Makaila Twomey, Haley Escalera, Melynda Davison and Kalley Collins.
Sophomores include Chalisa Jarungbengatham, Angelina Helms, Mariah Mader, Maddy Hocker, Pepper Lewis and Brenda Timmons.
Juniors include Mikayla Campbell, Summer Johnson and Bri Brumwell.
With their first tournament of the season ahead of them this weekend (the North Big Horn tournament), Cooley said she is excited to see how they do.
Though still working on rotations, Cooley said she has already assigned some positions on the varsity squad. She said Hayes will play outside, along with sophomore Brenda Timmons. Cooley said Timmons may be the team’s libero at some point. Brumwell is also playing outside position. Johnson is the team’s setter this year. Lewis and Hocker are middle hitters. Helms and Campbell will most likely move up to varsity, but Cooley didn’t specify their positions.
Cooley noted that a few girls, who missed practices for various reasons, will not play in the tournament this weekend, including Carroll, who will play right side in future games.
“With nearly half of our team being freshmen, it’ll be interesting to see how things work out,” said Cooley. “Some are ready for varsity but they could also use some extra JV time.”
Cooley said what she likes most about her young team is their enthusiasm.
“They want to be here and they want to win,” said Cooley. “That makes me excited to be here, too. I can’t emphasize enough what a good experience it’s been so far.
“Our season ended heavy last year. The gym literally felt heavy. This year it feels completely different and it has been different from the day we walked into the gym. We’re having fun and the girls are working hard.”
Cooley said the team completed their first week with twice a day workouts designed to improve conditioning and to work on “fundamentals.”
“I threw some really hard conditioning at them, and not one of them complained,” said Cooley. “They left the gym smiling, which was really good to see.”
Cooley added that she’s seen more unity on the team than in the past.
“This year I really see them trying to be as one,” she said. “Today I saw them all walking to practice together. I’m excited that we have that this year. It’s just different and it feels good. Obviously we want to win no matter what, but it feels like this is going to be a fun season.”
Cooley said many of the girls put extra effort into their conditioning during the summer.
“Our girls worked hard this summer,” said Cooley. “They put in a lot of time in the weight room and at open gyms and at camps. That makes a noticeable difference. I can see a difference in coordination for those girls that worked hard all summer. Their desire is amazing and I’m really proud of those girls.
Cooley said, since the team doesn’t have a true JV team, the team playing in the JV tournament in Lovell on Friday and Saturday will be made up of freshmen. Games start at 1 p.m. on Friday and 9 a.m. on Saturday.
The varsity squad will play at Rocky Mountain High School on Friday and Saturday with their Friday games against Ten Sleep at noon, Greybull at 4 p.m., Wind River at 6 p.m. and Cody at 8 p.m.
“I see a lot of potential with our girls,” said Cooley. “I don’t know if I can say how they will do individually yet, but I see a lot of awesome things happening already.”
This is Cooley’s third year coaching the varsity team. This year she will be assisted by Jennifer Steed, who is replacing Cooley’s sister Cari May, who recently had a baby.
“It’s been awesome to have Jennifer come in with Kayla (Honeyman) and I,” said Cooley. “She brings new ideas and to have those fresh ideas and a new take on things has been really good.”
Cooley said she is very pleased with what she is seeing so far, especially in terms of attitude and team spirit.
“They are like one big team, freshman through senior,” said Cooley. “That’s really great to see. We’re getting to the point now where we’re starting to feel like family. We’re ready and we trust each other. It will be exciting this weekend to see how they handle
By Patti Carpenter