Remembering the ‘77 Buffies

Marlys Good

If you were a girl attending Greybull High School in the years prior to 1970, you know that the only activities for female students was being a member of the Pep Club, wearing gold and blue sweaters and cheering on your male counterparts in football and basketball.
Julie Werbelow Valenzuela said her older sister Christine told her that volleyball started when she (Chris) was a sophomore, which would have been in 1970-71. Julie’s cousin, Connie Werbelow, recalled that the conference was established when “I was a sophomore, which would have been 1973-74.”
Both recalled the pickup games with Buffalo, Lovell, Worland, Basin and Cody.
In a photo taken when Julie was a freshman, the players wear bibs with numbers. Her freshman year, they were coached by Sheryl Barnett.
The program took a turn for the better in Julie’s junior year when Fran Paton Childers took over the helm.
Mary Fran Sylvester was coaching volleyball at the junior high level, and whether she moved up as assistant coach, we do not know.
Vickie Hart remembered her freshman year. “Girls track had started and they did very well with Joann Gibson, Mary Miller and Marilyn Molasky, along with a lot of others.”
Girls did participate in track much earlier, before volleyball and basketball were even offered.
As for the netters, they had no uniforms, Vickie said. “Just white shirts or T-shirts.”
She recalled that as a freshman, “it was the first organized regional volleyball and we competed with all the towns from our side of the state. No classification. We used the same uniforms as the track team and bought our own shorts.”
Teams were not classified as 1A, 2A, etc. They were grouped as A (the largest), B, C and so on.
Talking to the volleyball players of the early 70s to the championship in 1977, the opinion seemed to be that Coach Childers brought fresh, new, innovative ideas to the game. It wasn’t just the structured settings they had known before. Whatever her technique, it clicked. The athletes gained skills right along with more confidence. They grew as a unit, relying on each other’s strengths.
Julie Werbelow enjoyed just two years of volleyball, but she gained a lot during those two years. She played in several tournaments that included, as noted, teams on this side of the state, no matter the size of the school.
Then came 1977. By then, the Buffies competed in the A class at regionals and state. Vickie, who played all four years, recalled that the Buffies had lost to Jackson at regionals and state the previous year.
“I remember the principal asked Coach Childers what she thought would get the team over the hump, and she thought playing more teams around the state would provide a different challenge for the team. Not that we didn’t have great teams in the area; Meeteetse and Burlington always had competitive teams. So we traveled long distances and played some great teams, and it worked. We won the state title the next year.”
“Once the stage fright was gone, the Greybull Buffies easily disposed of three opponents last weekend in Powell,” read the lead story in the Greybull Standard following Greybull’s win of the State A title. It was noted that the Buffies hadn’t lost a single game at regionals the previous weekend, making it a clean sweep two weeks in a row.
In a Powell Tribune story, this was noted: “Area officials are saying the Buffies are playing the style of volleyball played at the college level.”
It was this advanced, higher level of play that Childers emphasized: different serves, blocking, setting — a more advanced and efficient style than was generally taught at the high school level. It showed in the performances, which got better every week. The Buffies fell right into the idea and thrived, grew and walked away winners.
Making the championship podium was even sweeter because the team beat its old nemesis Jackson for the top spot on the pedestal.
Hats off to those athletes who brought volleyball to the forefront at GHS and added a trophy to the case that once stood in the entry of GHS.
And a big shoutout to Coach Childers, who challenged her athletes, had confidence they could do and achieve more than standard “by-the-book” techniques. She had faith in her girls and knew how to gain their respect and confidence.