Laramie Volleyball caps off a dominant season with third state title in four years

Published: Nov. 8, 2023 at 12:36 AM CST
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CHEYENNE, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) - Few high school teams-- in any sport-- are able to reach the level of dominance that the 2023 Laramie Volleyball program achieved. They finished the season 33-1, won another state championship, and produced three all state selections (senior Maddy Stucky, junior Michon Sailors, and sophomore Tessa Dodd).

However the culmination of this season started long before 2023 rolled around, and it didn’t come without some bumps in the road. After going back-to-back as state champions in 2020 and 2021, 2022 looked a little different for the Lady Plainsmen. They lost several big time producers and had to rely on a multitude of young players. They finished in third place at last year’s tournament-- and while they weren’t able to reach the mountaintop again-- the pieces for this season were already coming together.

“To be honest with you-- I mean we had three freshmen and two sophomores on the floor-- and the entire season last year we got better and better and better and better. Each day in practice we found a way to get just one percent better, and by the end of the season we were ready for big moments. So us making it to that third place game and almost swinging to get into the state championship was massive for us. So since the kids were so young, it was easy to motivate them for the following year,” head coach Jill Stucky said.

“We were doing everything we can technically on and off the court to be able to be successful in states. I think we have progressed so much,” junior Savanna Steiert said. “We had a lot of young players last year, so I think last year was the year for us to get better mentally and really prepare for this year.”

In a relative sense, the team was still young going into 2023. However because of their returning talent and experience-- spearheaded by the reigning Player of the Year in Maddy Stucky-- Laramie had high expectations placed upon them this year. An important factor in living up to the billing was leaning on their upperclassmen leadership to help manage it.

“They’re all really big role models, and I look up to them even if they’re just like a year or two ahead of me. They just make everything amazing,” Dodd said.

“Maddy and I kind of had to be like holding this together, keep our cool, and kind of just be role models for them and show them like that we can do this. We just have to trust in ourselves, and with the pressure we need to remember how to handle it,” senior Anna Sell said.

During the regular season, Laramie was mowing down opponents with ease-- racking up a perfect 30-0 record all the way until the regional championship match against Thunder Basin. The Bolts stunned the Lady Plainsmen in five sets just a week before the state tournament.

More so than they had all season, Laramie faced some serious adversity.

“It really was motivation from the loss at regionals going into state. Like ‘hey, we are beatable. We need to fix some things.’ We tweaked a few things in practice and made ourselves better so that we could beat Thunder in the final,” Maddy Stucky said.

“Yeah it was fuel to our fire, and we just really wanted to go out there and beat them again and have another chance,” Dodd added.

They took out Star Valley in the opener to take the first step towards revenge, but the final two obstacles on their path to the top pushed the Lady Plainsmen to the limit. They had to mount a comeback in five sets against Cody in the semifinal-- and in the rematch for all the marbles-- they had to dig deep in the fifth frame once again. As the saying goes, pressure makes diamonds.

“It was really an exciting atmosphere to play in. Just all the noise. People rooting for you and against you, and really just focusing on your skills and knowing that you know how to play. Knowing that you know what to do,” Sell said.

“It was very fun. I think it was the highest level volleyball that we’ve all played together throughout the season, and I think it was very good for us to compete with the very difficult and very good players that we did. So it was stressful, but I think it was good for us. Like when we won that it was a very uplifting win for us,” Sailors said.

“I really think that since our team was so good, and we trained so hard in the offseason it just made it that much better. Like I got to play with really good athletes, so I was super excited about that. It really drove us to be the best team in the state, which we ultimately did come out on top. So it was awesome,” Maddy Stucky said.

As Laramie turns their attention to next year, they’ll bring back several key contributors. They don’t plan on going anywhere either.

“We’re obviously losing a few players like Maddy and Anna and stuff like that. But I think it’ll be very exciting for us to rebuild new confidence with new players. Learn how to hit off of a new setter, play with a new team, and I don’t know, be as one next year and try to get that win,” Sailors said.

“We’re just gonna continue to get better and better every single year physically and mentally. We’re all really committed to the sport, so we’re all doing everything that we can to be successful next year,” Steiert said.

“So we have some long gangly bodies still, and they can’t always make the exact play that they want to make. But this year they came through for me with their ‘gangles,’” Jill Stucky said. “We have a nice core coming back next year. We have pretty much everybody but our three seniors, and a lot of contributions sitting there waiting for next year.”

Congratulations to the Laramie volleyball team on an outstanding title run.