Now that the Star-Tribune has taken a look at the biggest storylines weaving through this looming volleyball season, as well as discussed some of the marquee names that return, it’s time to look at the schedule.Volleyball practices just started but first contests are days away. The following two months go by in a flash before teams are jockeying for regional seeding. Those regional tournaments, which again do away with any automatic byes and force teams to win at least one game to secure a spot at state, are once again scattered throughout Wyoming to start November. And, of course, that following weekend is the state tournament.
But before any of the gold can be decided, the season must begin. And here’s a few of the matches, as well as tournaments, that should be more consequential than others.
Cheyenne Invitational (Aug. 30-31): Douglas, Cowley and Cokeville also host some standout teams for tournaments during opening weekend, but the biggest schools convene in Cheyenne for this annual gathering. What will Kelly Walsh look like to start the season? Can any of the Cheyenne programs put last season’s pains behind them?
Gillette Invitational (Sept. 6-7): This annual tournament typically brings out teams from across the Northeast corner of the state, as well as a smattering of Central Wyoming squads. It could be highly attended this year since the only other tournament that weekend is in Evanston.
Rawlins Invitational (Sept. 13-14): If the hosting Outlaws want to finally get the monkey off their back and win the state championship they’ll need to face the toughest competition. That’s where this tournament comes in. It’ll be interesting to see how teams come out of this weekend typically consisting of 4A and 3A teams.
Casper Invitational (Sept. 27-28): A few 4A teams, some from 3A, as well as the best and surrounding 2A and 1A teams typically make it to the Casper Events Center for this tournament. If the competition doesn’t suit them (which would be highly doubtful) at least they’re getting used to playing in the same arena as the state tournament.
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Cody at Powell, Sept. 26: Cody excelled in the leap up to Class 4A last year. But the Fillies graduated a lot of talent while 3A Powell keeps an experienced side. Once again this match won’t mean much in terms of seeding, but a rivalry win is a big boost of confidence.
Cokeville at Saratoga, Sept. 28: The defending Class 1A champion Panthers will be coming off a hectic schedule by the time these two meet for the first time. This will also come a day after Saratoga hosts Farson. These quadrant foes also play each other in Cokeville three weeks later.
Cheyenne Central at Cheyenne East, Oct. 10: East got swept in the quarterfinals last year to put a pin in the Thunderbirds’ lackluster season. Central, frustrated through an improved season, didn’t even make the tournament. So this match comes with some fury.
Douglas at Rawlins, Oct. 12: These two teams simply don’t disappoint when they play each other. And with both likely in the championship-contender conversation yet again, it’s another match to watch. They could also see each other again after this, three weeks later at the East Regional.
Pine Bluffs at Glenrock, Oct. 19: This will be the second-to-last match on the schedule for both teams and it could help decide seeding for regionals. These budding quadrant rivals also play a month earlier at Pine Bluffs.
Natrona County at Kelly Walsh, Oct. 22: Last year’s VolleyBowl wasn’t affected by the two rival splitting conferences. In fact, it may have added to the importance of the rivalry. It’s always an event and this year’s meeting should be no different.
Riverton at Lander, Oct. 24: This could be the best match in the Fremont County rivalry in some time. Sure, they’re in different classes, but it’s Naya Shime’s 4A Wolverines against a promising 3A Tigers team with a promising amount of depth returning.