WOMEN YOU SHOULD KNOW IN WYOMING: New University of Wyoming Volleyball Head Coach Brings Passion for Success

Kaylee Prigge is determined to win conference championship

Kaylee Prigge coaches the University of Wyoming’s volleyball team in 2022. She was promoted from associate head coach to head coach for the new season. (Courtesy photo from the UW Athletic Department)

By K.L. McQuaid

Special to the Wyoming Truth

Kaylee Prigge remembers exactly when, where and what was happening around her the day her dream came true.

It was November 19 of last year, the day of the University of Wyoming Cowboys vs. Boise State Broncos’ football game, in Laramie. Her parents, three younger siblings and their significant others had all gathered to attend the game together that night.

Hours before the kickoff, Prigge was summoned to a meeting with UW Athletic Director Tom Burman in his office. Prigge, the UW Cowgirls’ volleyball team associate head coach of two years, would become the team’s new head coach for the 2023-2024 season, Burman told her.

“I was surprised, but it was also definitely very gratifying, especially to have my siblings and my dad there at that moment, because we’re a pretty tight-knit family,” said Prigge, 30.

“A head coaching job was a big goal of mine, something I aspired to and worked very hard for.”

With the start of the Cowgirls’ regular season on August 25 just weeks away, Prigge knows her hard work as head coach is just beginning.

In addition to having to navigate first-year jitters and juggle new duties, Prigge has been charged with turning around a women’s volleyball program that went a disappointing 10-20 last year, winning just six Mountain West Conference games against twice as many losses.

Prigge said her focus and that of the 16-member team this season will be on improving “culture” and instilling a winning spirit. The Cowgirls are comprised of 10 returning players and six newcomers. Of the 16 players on the roster, just three are seniors.

“We’re going to talk a lot about what it means to be ‘Cowgirl tough,’ along with consistency,” she said. “We have a very special, young group of athletes, and we’re going to focus this year on culturally getting back to where we need to be.

Kaylee Prigge, who joined the UW Cowgirls volleyball team in 2019, will be the squad’s head coach when the season kicks off on Aug. 25. (Courtesy photo from the UW Athletic Department) 

“The team has a very blue-collar mentality and we’re embracing that. We’re going to outwork our opponents. If we can do that, I think the wins and losses will take care of themselves.”

Missing the sport

Prigge played volleyball in high school in Jacksonville, Fla., and was recruited to play as a setter at the University of Tampa after graduation.

Once her college career was behind her, Prigge leveraged her marketing degree and landed a job in New York City with The Legacy Agency, a leading sports marketing firm.

The job was exciting and fulfilling, but one thing kept nagging at her: Prigge missed volleyball.

“I really missed competing,” she said. “I missed the sport.”

Long and frequent conversations with her college coach led to an exit from the Big Apple and an assistant coaching gig at her alma mater.

After two seasons in Tampa, Prigge left Florida for Illinois and an assistant coaching job at Southern Illinois University and then the University of Illinois-Chicago. She joined the Cowgirls’ coaching staff just before the team’s 2019 campaign.

That year, the Cowgirls notched 22 wins and set a record for most victories in a single season against teams in the Mountain West Conference, where they finished in second place.

Prigge had learned how to win as a student athlete. While in Tampa, she was a member of three South Region championship teams and helped the university reach two national championship matches in three years.

Those who have watched Prigge for the past four seasons said they’re confident that with her drive, attention to detail and knowledge of the sport, she can restore the Cowgirls’ program to its former glory and beyond.

“She has a real fire to build a powerhouse program; you can feel it when you talk to her,” said Taylor Stuemky, a UW associate athletic director for internal operations, senior woman administrator and supervisor of women’s volleyball. “But more than being just a great coach and mentor, she cares a lot about her players. There’s a lot of relatability, and as such she’s really respected and liked by our student athletes.”

Like Prigge, Stuemky said her goals for the team this season will be focused less on numbers and more on intangibles that will lead to future success.

“Of course we’d like to make to the Top Six in the conference tournament, but really what we’re interested in is cohesion on the court,” Stuemky said. “That’ll be the big thing we’re looking at this year.”

Kaylee Prigge coaches the UW volleyball team last season. As a setter for the University of Tampa’s volleyball team, she helped the university reach two national championship matches in three years. (Courtesy photo from the UW Athletic Department)

To help make that goal a reality, Prigge hired a pair of assistant coaches, Darshaya Gallard and Josh Taylor, and retained former UW Mountain West standout Becky Baker, who had been on the coaching staff with Prigge.

“I’m so excited because we balance each other out so well,” Prigge said.

She will get support from her sporting family, as well. She’s married to UW Associate Athletic Director for Compliance/Olympic Sports Peter Prigge, and her father is Dirk Koetter, a former collegiate and National Football League head coach who helmed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Boise State University and Arizona State University.

She and her father talk about coaching frequently, Prigge said. One key piece of advice the father-turned-former NFL-coach expressed to Prigge from a young age: “Do your job, and everything else will take care of itself.”

Prigge already is leaving her mark, in the form of new, sleeveless Adidas uniforms – a surprise for the team.

“I knew what I wanted, and I think they look pretty awesome,” she said of the design. “I hope they bring us some good mojo.”

In a TikTok video, UW players Skylar Erickson and Sarah Holcomb seem to be enjoying the new threads, too.

Prigge will need that mojo if she’s to accomplish her overarching goal of competing in the Mountain West tournament’s championship match each year, and matching women’s basketball, soccer and tennis – all of which have won titles there since 2020.

“Volleyball has never won it, the other sports have,” she said. “That’s inspiring to me.”

For now, the university believes Prigge has a long tenure ahead at UW.

“She’s at the beginning of her career,” Stuemky said of Prigge. “I’d like her to be a lifer here. There’s absolutely an opportunity for that.”

That would suit Prigge just fine.

“We love Laramie and Wyoming,” Prigge said. “It’s where we want to be. I want to raise a family here, where I can go skiing and biking and be outside almost year round. And I want to build the volleyball program here into something really special, something I and everyone else can be proud of in the years ahead.”

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