When Buffalo High School volleyball takes the court for the first time this fall, it will be nearly half of the team’s first time on a high school court.
Out of the 36 players head coach Carlene Landrey expects to see on the freshman, JV and varsity squads, 16 will be freshmen. They will have to make the adjustment from middle school to high school competition without the benefit of full-team summer practices.
“One of the biggest changes, especially if I have a freshman that ends up playing on the varsity squad for me, is we play best three out of five matches,” Landrey said. “There’s a possibility their whole middle school career, they played best two out of three.”
Last year, the team weathered multiple five-set matches, which serve as a trial by fire for uninitiated freshmen.
“Those are hard,” Landrey said. “Those are two to two and a half hours of just volleyball, and if you’re playing a five-set match, they’re all usually close sets. So we condition a lot. There’s just a higher level of competitiveness. You’re never guaranteed a spot. It’s not quite as guaranteed of court time as it is in middle school.”
The decision as to who exactly will be on what team will wait until the players all get together for the first time. As practices began Monday, all 36 players were vying for spots side-by-side.
“We don’t split right off the bat because I like to see all the kids together and see who the best teams are going to break down being, regardless of age,” Landrey said.
Still, Landrey already knows that some of her returning players will be the core of the varsity squad. Returning 5-foot-5-inch senior Riley Fowler was a consistent MaxPreps Wyoming Top 5 player in the middle last season, but this year Landrey will move the steady big hitter into an outside role and leave the middle for the squad’s taller players.
Junior Tessa Taylor, who boasts considerable height as well as three years of varsity experience, will move into Fowler’s place in the middle. Meanwhile, Landrey believes senior Cassie Downare to be a highlight as a setter.
“She has been working like crazy, and her hands look amazing,” Landrey said. “At the end of the summer, that’s a big deal, because setter hands usually don’t show up until the middle of the season.”
With such a young team, Landrey expects to see some freshmen make the sizable jump from eighth grade volleyball to varsity play. Who those freshmen will be depends on how much work they’ve put in this summer, and how that shows when the team finally gets together for a full practice.
“I try not to make my decision too early,” Landrey said. “There’s kids that have worked hard and put in the work that could make it there for sure, so I’m excited to see how they grow this fall.”
The fall season will begin Friday, Aug. 28, at Big Horn. The first match starts at 6 p.m.