Dec. 30, 2011
Montana volleyball coach Jerry Wagner is highly selective when it comes to recruiting and highly protective of the valuable spots on his roster and the chemistry that will result. To get the Grizzlies to the top of the Big Sky Conference he knows a team stocked with only the best of the best is going to produce championships.
With an active roster of only 11 last fall, Wagner proved once again he is not afraid to stick to his recruiting approach of quality over quantity.
Wagner signed only one player during November's early signing period, but Gabby Crowell of Bend, Ore., is more and more proving to be the quality of student-athlete that Wagner is looking for.
Crowell, a 5-11 outside hitter who led Summit High School to the Oregon Class 5A state title last month, was named the 2011 Class 5A Player of the Year recently and first team all-state for the second consecutive season.
One coach's opinion could probably be written off as so much coach speak, but Class 5A Coach of the Year Jill Waskom, Crowell's coach at Summit High, backs up everything Wagner has been saying about the first signee of his 2012 team.
"(Gabby is) very passionate about volleyball," Waskom told The Oregonian. "Every day she is physically and mentally into volleyball."
Wagner cast his recruiting net deeper than just Crowell but missed out on an outside hitter from California and a junior college middle blocker.
While finishing second in a recruiting battle may not be something to toast, being the final of two choices between Columbia, one of the Ivy League's eight schools, in one case and West Virginia of the Big East Conference in the other means Wagner and assistant coaches Gina Schmidt and Allison Lawrence are for the most part excelling in the two most important aspects of recruiting: identifying talent and selling that talent on everything Montana has to offer.
What the 2012 team has to offer likely will be another upper division finish in the Big Sky Conference and a return to the postseason tournament.
The Grizzlies went 11-13 last season and missed out on the Big Sky tournament for the first time in four years. The team's 8-8 league record came up a game short.
The 2012 team will return four starters, none of whom will be seniors in the fall.
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