BIG SKY – The sound of squeaking shoes, hard-hit balls and encouragement filled the air at an Aug. 24 Lone Peak High School girls’ volleyball team practice. With six seniors graduating last year, this season’s squad includes 21 girls as well as new head coach Ellen Wolferman and volunteer Bailey Dowd.
When Missy Botha stepped down as head coach last year, Wolferman heard of the opening while she was working as a ski instructor at Big Sky Resort and was hired after connecting with BSSD Athletic Director John Hannahs.
“We are excited to have Ellen as head coach for the upcoming volleyball season,” Hannahs wrote in an email to EBS. “Her experience in the sport and the energy that she brings to the team is invaluable to the volleyball program.”
Wolferman grew up in Missoula, Montana, and began her volleyball career in high school. As a senior, she coached the middle school volleyball team and has also coached at Beaverhead County High School in Dillon, Montana, as well as club teams in Atlanta, Georgia.
Wolferman said she is happy to have the opportunity to coach the Lady Bighorns and to be not only a good coach but a good person and a force of positive change in the Big Sky community.
“That’s [what] my motto is,” Wolferman said. “Carry yourself with grit and grace and leave things better than you found [them].”
In addition to her head coaching position, Wolferman holds two serving jobs in Bozeman and works in social media, marketing and web design as well.
Wolferman met her new team and began working with the girls this summer. The Lady Bighorns attended a team camp in July at Montana State University where they competed against teams from across the state at levels ranging from Class C to Class AA.
“I was really impressed with the attitudes of the girls and how hard they worked but [also] how well behaved and respectful they were during the camp,” Wolferman said.
Through three months of twice-a-week practices and open gyms, Wolferman said the girls have been dedicated, highly supportive of each other and work well together.
“Ellen has done a terrific job working with the team this summer,” Hannahs wrote. “The work they have all put in will undoubtedly give them a big advantage this season.”
After Lone Peak’s historic performance last year where they finished third in the divisional tournament, Wolferman is expecting another solid season and hopes to take the girls to the state tournament in November.
“I want to win at least 75 percent of the games,” Wolferman said, “I want to have a set roster that is comfortable and working well together … I want these girls to enjoy playing volleyball [and] I want to go to state. They can do it, I know they can do it. We’re ready.”
To kick off the season, the Lady Bighorns will compete in the Battle in Big Sky Volleyball Tournament on Saturday, Aug. 28, hosted in Big Sky at the Bough-Dolan Athletic Center. They will play seven other schools and due to tournament rules, only 12 girls can dress out to play.
The roster has not yet been finalized, Wolferman said, adding that she will have a JV and Varsity team ready for action.
In addition to her volleyball-related goals, Wolferman emphasized the importance of building healthy relationships within the team. She wants to make sure the girls are doing well in school and in their personal lives and sees volleyball as the fun part.
“There’s so much that I have to do to be there for these girls and be a good coach and show up and put my best foot forward,” Wolferman said. “I’m going to have to admit when I fall short, as not only a coach but just a person for these girls.”
Wolferman hopes to continue building her relationship with the team, saying she will learn as much from them as they hopefully do from her.
“Not only are they talented girls but they are respectful girls and they are very coachable and they listen and they focus,” she said. “It makes my job a lot easier.”