TORRINGTON – After two trips to the NCAA National Volleyball Tournament with Stephen F. Austin State University, it lit a fire under new Eastern Wyoming College head coach JD Wisener.
While working on his master’s degree at SFASU, the Lumberjacks won two conference titles, qualifying for the NCAA Tournament both years.
“It was really major accolades for a mid-major DI,” Wisener said. “That’s what lit my fire, yes, this is what I want to do.”
But it was a prior stop at Texas Tech University as a practice player/manager where he got his foot in the door, helping make up his mind coaching volleyball is what he wanted to do.
After stops at two NCAA Division I institutions, he made the transition to the junior college ranks at a school in South Texas, getting his feet wet as a full-time assistant coach.
“I absolutely loved it, and I realized junior college is the way I wanted to go,” Wisener said.
Shortly after that, COVID hit, forcing the school let the assistant coaches go.
That’s when Wisener found a job at the University of South Carolina-Sumter where he helped lay the foundation for the school’s first volleyball team.
Not long after that, he wanted something bigger, someplace where he could grow a little bit more.
“That’s how I ended up find EWC, and I have loved every minute of it since I’ve been here,” Wisener said.
He grew up in a military home and moving around has always been a part of his life, and never having been to the North, he wanting to give it a shot.
“It sounded interesting,” Wisener said. “You don’t hear a lot about Wyoming unless you know somebody from there. It was really cool to talk to the people, and once I got to know the people who interviewed me – Tom (Andersen), Tami (Afdahl) and some of those awesome people – I knew this is where I wanted to be. They are great people who want to help the students to strive for greatness all the time.”
So, on May 31 Wisener moved to Torrington, and on June 1, he began his new position at the Lady Lancers head coach.
“The transition has been awesome. EWC is nothing but great people,” Wisener said. “The town of Torrington has been so welcoming, taking me in with open arms. I have absolutely enjoyed being here and meeting all these awesome people.”
Since arriving in town, it’s been trying to put together a team for the upcoming season. Starting on June 1 didn’t leave him with a lot of time to fill a roster, but he managed to pull it off.
“That has been a challenge. It was a really small window from the fact that most girls are already committed, or they’ve decided to not play volleyball anymore,” Wisener said. “I have found nine awesome girls that were still looking to play and for the opportunity.”
One of those is Torrington High School alum Avery West.
“Great work ethic. She’s a great kid from a really good family,” Wisener said. “She embodies Torrington very well. I’m excited to bring in kids, not only from Torrington, but from Wyoming to have more local players. It helps strengthen the community and brings in a lot to the stands when we are playing games.”
The team started practice this week for the upcoming season, and Wisener is excited about where the team is already at.
“We are at a much better starting point than I was expecting,” he said. “That has really excited me. We have started a lot better than I was hoping. We obviously have a long way to go, but just where we started, makes me feel better where we can go and the direction that I’m trying to take the program. There is a lot of potential here.”
He wants to play fast and play defense “like nobody else.”
“We are going to go fast. We are going to play defense like nobody else. I see us growing, not only roster-wise, but as people. I very much like to be involved in the community and get the girls involved in the community,” Wisener said. “I really hope in the next couple years, we can make it out of the regional tournament and go to nationals. That’s a really big experience and a really big deal for a lot of these girls. Honestly, just having them find their groove here, figure out college especially with some of them coming from a little bit further away, and just being great people either on the volleyball court, the classroom or in the community.”
The Lady Lancers open the season on the road at rival Western Nebraska Community College at 7 p.m. at the Cougar Palace on Wednesday, Aug. 24.
“That will a fun game. I’ve heard a lot of great things about WNCC and coach (Binny) Canales. I’m excited to play them. Then we play them a week or so late here,” Wisener said. “I’m excited. The girls have been giving me awesome effort the whole time, and they are a really good group to be around. I’m excited to see where we go.”
Eastern Wyoming’s first home game is scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 7 at 7 p.m.