On a mission
Volleyball coach in search of elusive state title
Craig — More than thirty girls grunt their way through suicide drills.
Back and forth they go, sweat dripping to the gymnasium floor as they push closer toward total body fatigue.
They moan and groan, fighting the desire to cease this punishment.
One voice can be heard above all.
“Focus. Push harder. Give it everything you have. Finish strong. Laziness only breeds losing.”
Welcome to the world of Brianna Montgomery.
If anyone knows about what it takes to be a winner, it’s Moffat County’s volleyball coach.
Montgomery has been successful her entire volleyball career and she’s not about to stop now.
A shy kid in the fourth grade, Montgomery was introduced to what would become her life’s passion.
Born and raised in Baggs, Wyo., Montgomery was searching for something to fill the void outside of working on her family’s cattle ranch.
“There was a volleyball camp held in town before fifth grade and I went out,” Montgomery said. “I’ll never regret that decision.”
As part of a school with a total enrollment of 175 kids for kindergarten through twelfth grades – volleyball started in the sixth grade – Montgomery toiled with basketball first.
One year – and another volleyball camp – later, Montgomery was set to shine.
“I finally got my chance in the sixth grade,” she said. “I really wasn’t that good, though. I had to work hard.”
Starting on the right side for a team that never lost in the two years she was there helped build her confidence and introduced her to the fruits of her labor.
“My first coach – Judi Stanley – taught me the fundamentals,” she said. “Without that, I couldn’t have gotten anywhere.”
A skinny, gangly kid entering her freshman year of high school, Montgomery was eager for her body to catch-up with her skills.
As a ninth-grader, Montgomery was a starter and a letterman by the end of the season in an ultra-competitive Little Snake River Rattler’s volleyball program.
“Coach Anne Wiley saw something in me,” she said. “She transitioned me to outside-hitter and I drastically improved.”
Montgomery won all-state awards in two of her four years in high school. She captured three all-conference awards and capped off her senior season as the all-conference MVP. Her teams never lost a regular season match during her final three years.
The Rattlers were the first team to beat 21-time state champion Cokeville in 16 years.
“That was the biggest win of my entire playing career,” she said. “There is no better feeling than knocking off the champs.”
Despite three straight trips to the state championships, the Montgomery-led Rattlers came away empty-handed – all three times.
“That hurt a lot,” Montgomery said. “To get all that way and lose. The worst part was that they won the year after I left.”
The losses never dealt Mont-
gomery a blow from which she couldn’t recover.
“I wanted to keep on playing,” she said.
And that is exactly what she did.
Montgomery took her skills to the next level, earning a full-ride scholarship to Northwest Junior College in Powell, Wyo.
She had Division I offers for rodeo, but the cylindrical white piece of leather beckoned her.
“I could never give up volleyball,” she said. “It’s my true love.”
The college level of competition started to take its toll on Montgomery’s body.
Two years and two bad knees later, she came home.
“It became too hard on my knees,” she said. “You can’t be an effective hitter if you don’t have that needed explosion on lift-off.”
Montgomery played in recreational leagues while working on the family ranch before a ringing telephone call altered her life’s course.
Moffat County desired a volleyball coach.
“(Moffat County High School athletic director) Jeff Simon called me up one day and offered me the position,” she said. “It’s an opportunity you don’t say no to.”
Montgomery took over a 2-5 program in the middle of the season. She guided them back to a No. 2 seed in the state regional playoffs.
“I started over with these girls,” she said. “I went back to the fundamentals of the game and that’s what holds us together.
“I had to teach them that everyone is capable of winning.”
This season, winning has become contagious. The Bulldogs are off to a torrid start, winning their past four in a row while accumulating a 7-3 record in Montgomery’s first full season.
“This team is growing tremendously,” she said. “They have gotten a taste of winning and they will accept nothing less.”
Montgomery attributes her coaching accomplishments to her previous coaches and being part of successful programs everywhere she has been.
“Winning is a big deal to me,” she said. “Winning breeds success. You feel confident when you succeed. Players react to that.”
Montgomery isn’t sure where her coaching path will lead, or even how far she intends to take it.
“I don’t know where this road will lead me,” she said. “I would love to win that elusive state championship. I couldn’t win it as a player, now I’ve got a shot as coach.”
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