For the most part, the Wyoming high school volleyball landscape has had a familiar look to it the past few years.
In Class 4A, Kelly Walsh (2017-19) and Cheyenne East (2014-16) have won the past six state championships. Class 2A has seen either Sundance (2017, ‘19) or Wright (2018, 2014-16) take home gold the past six years. And in 1A, Cokeville has won three in a row and seven of the past nine. Class 3A is the outlier, with Rawlins’ title last year marking the eighth year in a row the classification didn’t have a repeat champ.
If ever there was going to be a year in which the script might be flipped, 2020 seems as good a bet as any. Teams and fans are going to have to get used to not having any multi-team invitationals this year, which means the state tournament (Nov. 4-7 at the Casper Events Center) will be a four-day affair, with each classification starting and finishing on the same day.
Here’s a quick look at each of the classifications ahead of the season tipping off across the state this weekend.
Three-time defending state champ Kelly Walsh has to replace seven seniors and three all-state selections off last year’s team, but opponents should know by now to never underestimate the Trojans.
The same could be said for East, which returns all-state senior outside hitter Hailey Marshall and seven other players off last year’s third-place team.
State runner-up Thunder Basin also returns a veteran lineup spearheaded by senior outside hitter Elsa Clark, while Laramie juniors Halley Freezer and Alexis Stuckey lead a young and talented Plainsmen squad chasing its first state title since 1994.
With 10 returning all-state selections, including four two-timers, 3A is loaded with talent and experience. And while the state championship trophy has changed hands each of the past eight years, Rawlins could be poised for a repeat. The Outlaws return two all-staters in McKenzie Earl and Brooke Palmer and finished second in both 2017 and ‘18 before breaking through last year.
Runner-up Worland also figures to be in the mix as the Warriors return two all-state selections in Denali Jones and Payton Julson among a deep senior class. Douglas will once again be in contention behind a strong offensive attack led by seniors Allyson Fertig (a University of Wyoming basketball commit) and Joslin Igo.
Add Pinedale and Lander, who played an epic five-set thriller in last year’s consolation semifinals with Pinedale winning 3-2 (25-20, 26-24, 21-25, 17-25, 15-11), and the 3A race is going to be one to keep an eye on throughout the year.
After starting last season 7-4, Sundance won 20 of its final 23 matches, culminating with a 3-0 sweep of Wind River in the championship match. With a number of varsity players returning, including senior all-state selections Aftyn Marchant and Sherry Negaard, the Bulldogs are once again on the short list of championship contenders.