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January 15, 2009 3:37 am

PHS volleyball coach tabbed for major award

Written by Tribune Staff

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Powell High School head coach Cindi Smith has been named Class 3A Volleyball Coach of the Year by the Wyoming Coaches Association. Tribune photo by Don Amend

Smith credits players for honor

Powell High School volleyball coach Cindi Smith has been named Class 3A Volleyball Coach of the Year by the Wyoming Coaches Association, but she says the honor belongs to her team as well.

“I feel honored,” Smith said of the award, “but it's what we've all done together that earned it.”

What she and her team have done together, Smith said, is dedicate themselves to hard work and teamwork on the court. That dedication led to the 3A state title in the fall of 2008.

“The kids stepped on the court every day and strived to get better,” she said. “They were unselfish and everyone did her part. ”

Smith also credited the coaches who have assisted her, particularly assistant coach Dori Trustem, and others who have supported the program through the years.

This year's trophy was a long time coming, and it took hard work to earn it, Smith said.

The Lady Panthers last won a state volleyball championship, their first, more than two decades ago. Smith also was part of that team as a junior at PHS.

When Smith returned to the team as head coach in 1998, the Lady Panthers had not been back to the state tournament since that 1987 championship, and it was not until 2003 that the Lady Panthers again earned a trip to the final eight, only to be eliminated in two games. The next three years saw the Lady Panthers at home during the state tournament.

But Smith had already planted the seeds of a state championship by establishing a feeder program so young girls could learn the game and develop their skills.

“I started club ball,” Smith said. “We added opportunities for kids to play the game. These kids this year have been working on volleyball since they were little.”

That program began to pay off as those who entered the program as sixth graders moved into high school with a lot of volleyball experience behind them.

The result was a regional championship in 2007 and the Lady Panthers' second trip to state in 20 years. Only a heartbreaking loss in a five-set battle with defending champion Wheatland kept them from the finals that year.

This year was a dream season for the Lady Panthers and their coach. Except for five losses in abbreviated tournament games, they were undefeated during the season. They repeated as conference and regional champions and lost only one set at state before defeating Kemmerer in three sets for the crown.

For Smith, the girls' efforts that earned the championship is the important part of the season, and she is happy they could bring that home, not only for the high school she once played for, but for the community. Her coaches at PHS, basketball coach Frank McCarthy and volleyball coach Harry Karn, taught her a lot, she said, and she hopes to do the same for her players.

“It's been nice to be able to come back to my hometown and coach and give back to the community,” she said.

Smith said winning the award is exciting, and she's looking forward to this summer's meeting of the Wyoming Coaches Association, when she will be recognized. She has been to the meeting before, but has never attended the awards banquet.

“This year, I'll get to go to the banquet and see what happens there,” she said.

As she is recognized, though, she'll remember the girls who helped her earn the award with their performance on the court.

“I really feel privileged to work with this group of girls,” she said.