Rogers gets her first volleyball All-State accolade

PINEDALE – The Lady Wrangler volleyball team graduated all six starters the previous spring, and Pinedale senior Roxanne Rogers found herself in a new leadership role as team captain.

“It was a serious mental challenge because I knew I had to fill those seniors’ roles,” Rogers said. “It was my job now to keep everybody together, to keep the energy up.”

Rogers was also learning a new court assignment as the middle back.

The transition seemed daunting at times.

“Midseason, I hit a really big wall,” she said. “We were taking losses in conference. I was talking to my coaches, and they were saying, ‘We need you to be a leader out there.’”

Rogers tried emulating the seniors she looked up to last season with mixed results. Following a tough practice, Rogers sat down with assistant coach Mandy Brisko. Brisko encouraged Rogers to find her own path.

“Coach Brisko told me I had to accept that I don’t lead the same way somebody else leads,” said Rogers. “The way I see the game is different than anybody else. I had to accept new players, that they don’t play the same way. They all have something different to offer. In that process, I learned to accept myself and capitalize on my strengths.”

Rogers’ confidence grew and she developed her own leadership style, embracing humility, encouragement and building relationships with players on and off the court.

“If somebody is having an off day, a rough week or rough practice, I think I notice that,” she said. “I’m not going to let someone fall. I’m going to bring everybody with me, no matter what.”

Rogers’ leadership skills, combined with her athletic ability, earned her 2021 All-State and 3A West All-Conference honors from the Wyoming Coaches Association.

Rogers made the All-State roster in girls’ basketball in 2020 and 2021, though this is her first volleyball recognition.

“It feels pretty surreal,” she said. “I don’t know if it’s sunk in yet because volleyball has been something I’ve been involved in for a very long time, but I’ve never gotten an award in it.”

A season of transition

Rogers learned to play six different rotations as a middle back.

“You’re never in the same spot,” she said. “One point can shift everything. You have to be super flexible and you have to be able to adapt. This year, in my new position, I had to hit in all three positions – the outside, middle and the opposite position. Even though outside is my main position, there were a couple of rotations where I was forced out of my comfort zone.”

The ability to adjust to a fluid situation helped Rogers learn to take a tough hit and get back up during a rocky start to the season – how to “get comfortable being uncomfortable.”

“Unlike the Mountain Views, the Lymans, the Landers, we took a lot of losses to our confidence early on,” she said. “The first game against Mountain View was tough. It was our first home game and we lost pretty bad. But the next day we had to turn around and play Lyman, and we didn’t give up and we took a set off them.”

Rogers described 2021 as a “rebuilding” year.

“We built the habit of moving on and being optimistic and taking it to anybody who’s on the other side of the net, regardless of what happens,” she added. “We knew how to lose and we knew how to come back stronger and learn from our mistakes.”

As the season progressed, Pinedale improved. By October, the Lady Wranglers tallied wins against Worland, Lovell, Jackson, Cokeville and Powell.

The point where the Lady Wranglers punched their ticket to State at the Regional Tournament was where “everything started to click,” said Rogers.

“At the beginning of the year, I couldn’t have told you that we were a State team. We had lost to Mountain View, Lyman and Lander so many times. But we just kept climbing. Instead of letting those losses knock us down, we kept thinking it was still possible, we could do this.”

Pinedale defeated Worland, 3-1, in the Regional quarterfinals before falling to Lyman in the semifinals. Dropping into the consolation bracket, Pinedale swept Powell, 3-0, in the make-or-break consolation semifinals.

“The first time we played Powell this season, we played them to five,” Rogers said. “We had to make a comeback at Regionals and thought, ‘We played these guys for a really long time during the last game and we don’t want to do that again because this is that game that is going to take us to State.’ We came out firing on all cylinders.”

Pinedale advanced to play Lander for third place. The Lady Wranglers battled Lander point-for-point in five sets, ultimately falling by two points.

Despite the loss, Rogers described the Lander match as the “best game we’ve played together as a team.”

“I don’t think we had even taken a set off Lander this season. We had played four to five hours of volleyball that day because of the schedule. We just got done playing Powell. Lander had a big break and we went out there and took them to five sets. We definitely shook a lot of people. Mountain View and Lyman were in the gym watching – Lander had previously beaten those teams. That gave us a lot of confidence – we were running with the top teams in the State.”

Finishing on a high note

The Lady Wranglers carried their momentum into the State Tournament in Casper. On opening night, Pinedale upset Buffalo, the No. 1 seed from the East, in a 3-0 sweep.

In the semifinals, the Lady Wranglers fell to Lyman, though they won the first two sets and came close to defeating the Eagles in the fifth set.

“The first two sets kind of surprised us,” Rogers said. “The first time we played Lyman, we lost in three. The second time, we lost in four and the third time, we lost in five.”

Pinedale squared off against Burns in the consolation quarterfinals. Burns won the first two sets by a wide margin.

True to form, the Lady Wranglers dug deep and came out fighting, nearly tying the third set.

“We realized it was the last game for the seniors together and we didn’t want to go out on a bad note,” Rogers said.

While the season did not end as the Lady Wranglers would have liked, the team’s progress over the season was a victory in its own right, Rogers said.

“When I look back, I think we grew a lot as athletes and people. I loved being on that journey and I’m so proud of all of my teammates. I know Lyman won the State Championship, but I think Pinedale got the most out of this season. At the end of the day, Pinedale volleyball won.”

Rogers plans to study optometry after graduation this spring and is looking into different athletic programs as options for college. Rogers is a member of the National Honor Society.

Rogers thanked her parents for their support.

“My parents are there through everything,” she said. “They are the people I aspire to be. Their advice carried me through the season. I could always lean on them.”

Rogers also credited the Lady Wrangler coaching staff, including head coach Tamara Currah.

“(Currah) has been with me for a really long time,” Rogers said. “She took that extra time to stay after practice and work with me as a person. Tamara teaches us life skills, not just volleyball. She definitely brought me to where I am today.”

Rogers also gave a shoutout to her teammates, her grandmother and the “awesome” PHS student section.