The process is complete.
Now in her fifth year as the Wyoming volleyball coach, Carrie Yerty believes she has assembled the players that can lead the Cowgirls to the postseason for the first time since 1994.
“It’s taken five years to get everything in place,” Yerty said at last week’s Media Day. “It’s taken a lot … the process of the recruiting over the last four years, the maturing of the players, the development of our volleyball IQ and our skills, and the players understanding what they need to do outside of the coaching staff.”
UW returns all six starters from the team that finished 21-11 overall and 9-5 in Mountain West play. It marked just the second time in program history the Cowgirls won 20 games in back-to-back seasons –they were 22-10 in 2010 – and the nine league wins were UW’s most since joining the MW.
Leading the way for UW is 5-foot-11 senior outside hitter Jodi Purdy, a two-time all-league selection. Purdy enters the season No. 8 on UW’s all-time list for kills (1,157) and No. 6 for digs (960). If the Winterset, Iowa, native equals her numbers from last season (409 kills and 382 digs), she’ll end her UW career atop both lists.
“I just feel so ready,” Purdy said. “My enthusiasm comes from the fact that our team is so ready to make a name for ourselves as a volleyball program.”
Purdy expects to have plenty of help on the court this season.
The Cowgirls return another all-league pick in Evanston’s Erin Kirby. The 6-0 sophomore, who plays both middle blocker and right-side hitter, led the team in blocks with 1.2 per game.
Joining Purdy and Kirby in the starting lineup are 6-3 senior middle blocker Camille Coffman and three juniors -- 5-7 setter Rachel Keyes, 6-1 outside hitter Calli Miller and 6-2 middle blocker Reese Plante.
UW also welcomes back Makenzie Bartsch, a 6-2 senior middle blocker from Natrona County, sophomore setter Whitney Smith and junior libero Becky Stewart.
“We’ve got a full roster, and we’ve got two redshirt freshmen [6-6 Katherine Feldman and 6-2 Bridget Shanahan] that are going to be able to provide depth,” Yerty said. “When [the coaches] walk into the gym, it’s been a very easy environment and it’s been very calm and mature.
“This is going to be a very exciting season for Cowgirl volleyball. I just feel like we’re ready.”
Kirby added that the Cowgirls showed early on that their summer of preparation was going to pay dividends.
“We all had butterflies on the first day,” she said, “but it was the best first day of preseason that we’ve ever had. That first day shows how the rest of our season can go.
“Part of the reason I came here was because I wanted to be part of a building program, and it’s definitely been that. We’ve gotten better every year since I’ve been here, and I can’t wait to get [this season] started.”
UW opens the season Aug. 24-25 when it hosts the UniWyo Wyoming Invite. The Cowgirls also host a tournament the following weekend and then travel to tourneys in Kansas and Indiana before getting into league play.