The youth movement this season for Laramie High volleyball was apparent all over the court.
The Lady Plainsmen have two seniors who stepped up to replace six former seniors after graduation. After three juniors, the lineup is filled with five sophomores and a freshman.
The defensive back row has also been a part of the rebuilding effort for a team that has improved throughout the season and will be playing at the state tournament for the fifth straight season.
Sophomore libero Halley Feezer and freshman left back Taylor Tyser have been called upon to keep the plays alive for the Lady Plainsmen. They have played nearly every position growing up and are hitters at heart. But they also understand the realities of where they are needed most on the floor. Feezer is 5-foot, 7-inches, and Tyser is all of 5-2.
“When I’m on the front row I feel out of it because I’m so short and it’s really hard to get up on a block,” Feezer said. “When I’m back row, it’s easier to make a move and read the court a little bit better.”
Tyser added: “I really like hitting, but my dreams were kind of crushed being only 5-2. But I really like the back row and the aspect of digging the ball.”
Tyser was born and raised in Laramie, and Feezer moved here from Cheyenne before her seventh-grade year.
Feezer used to also play basketball before focusing solely on volleyball. She also plays club volleyball, including beach volleyball.
“I like the team part of it,” Feezer said. “If one person doesn’t do something it kind of reflects on the team and helps us build up (as individuals).”
Tyser still plays basketball and competes in track and field, but volleyball is her main sport and also played on club teams when she can.
“I really like the intensity of it, the feeling you get when your team does something good and how you can build everybody up when somebody does something good,” Tyser said.
Feezer got her first taste at the varsity level last season.
“That was definitely fun. I loved being on the team, having an opportunity to play as a freshman and proving a point that (coach) Becky (Baker) chose the right girl to be up there (on varsity),” Feezer said. “I focus on touching the ball. If I don’t go for a ball, I won’t know if I could ever touch it — making a move on every ball and trying to get under it.”
Feezer is probably the only other player that knows exactly what Tyser is experiencing in her first season with the Lady Plainsmen.
“My goal was just to go where the coaches needed me to help the team as much as possible, and wherever that was, that’s good,” Tyser said. “I’m just excited and glad I got the opportunity to play on varsity.
“I try to focus on reading (the plays) and not getting down on yourself if you miss one. Volleyball is a very mental sport, especially with passing. After you miss a ball, you really have to just let it go.”
Tyser was not overwhelmed when she was brought up to varsity during the season. She humbly said her thoughts at the time were to “not to let it get bigger than it is, take one practice at a time and try to help the team as much as possible.”
The state tournament
The Lady Plainsmen (18-15 overall) will begin the opening quarterfinals of the state tournament at 7:30 tonight against Star Valley (33-5) at the Casper Events Center.
LHS represents the No. 2 seed from the East Conference; Star Valley is the West No. 3 seed.
“I know we are ridiculously different than (earlier in the season) and Star Valley will be, as well,” LHS coach Becky Baker said. “We as coaches will watch some film, and we will probably implement some little things here and there. But the girl’s main focus will be what’s going on in our side of the net.”
Baker has guided the Lady Plainsmen to the state tourney in all five seasons she has been at the helm of LHS volleyball.
The Lady Plainsmen placed third in 2016 and 2017 and was runner-up last season. Heavy favorite Kelly Walsh pulled away in the title match to beat Laramie 23-25, 25-22, 25-17, 25-10.
Laramie's continued improvement this season was also evident in last weeks’ regional tournament when it entered as a No. 2 seed from the Southeast and ended with the same seed from the East overall.
The Lady Plainsmen beat Campbell County (25-17, 25-20, 25-23) and Thunder Basin (25-22, 25-22, 19-25, 25-23) on the first day to qualify for state and the regional title match. Cheyenne East claimed the East top seed by beating Laramie (25-17, 25-14, 19-25, 25-12).
“We came out hungry and ready to go, which was great to see and we were executing really well,” Baker said. “Then on Saturday, we had our struggles — East played a great match — but having that kind of match and coming out on the losing end of it will be a really good learning experience for us going into state. We’ve never faced a match with that much pressure before. It was a good experience for us even thought it didn’t feel like it in the moment.”