Nov 14, 2013 - By Bruce Tippets, Sports EditorThe former Campbell County High School player was a two-year starter for the Rustlers.
Jess Kohler never backed down from a blazing bullet from any opponent on the volleyball court.
The Central Wyoming College sophomore libero finished the regular season leading the National Junior College Athletic Association in digs per set at 6.33.
The 5-foot-5 Kohler was a two-year starter for the Rustlers.
"The secret to being a libero is that you have to be able to read the ball and read how the other team reacts to stuff," Kohler said.
Kohler was shocked to learn about her No. 1 position nationally.
"I was really surprised about it, but to me it felt good," Kohler said. "To me it's probably my greatest accomplishment."
The Rustlers were eliminated last week by Northwest College at the Region IX tournament in Torrington.
"That is probably the best thing to end my career on," Kohler said. "I know that there are players out there who are way better than me. It comes down to a team effort as well. If they have a team that puts up big blocks, then it really doesn't give the libero a chance to get digs."
"My experience in Gillette helped me get to where I was," Kohler said.
Kohler started her high school career as an outside hitter.
She was selected to the Class 4-A all-state list in high school. Kohler helped Gillette place third at the state tournament.
"I didn't even get switched to the libero until three weeks into my senior year," Kohler said. "It just worked. It fit for me."
Kohler grew up in Pavillion before she moved to Gillette.
"There was no where else that I wanted to go but to CWC," Kohler said.
"I knew that she had the potential to be one of the top ones in the nation," CWC head coach Tiffany Stauffenberg said.
"She was doing so well for us last year."
Stauffenberg said Kohler didn't mind having the extra pressure on her this year.
"She accepted it," Stauffenberg said.
"She got a lot of touches."
Haleigh Valenzuela of Frank Phillips College in Borger, Texas, was No. 2 in the nation is digs per set at 5.89.
"Jess reads the hitters so well," Stauffenberg said. "The biggest thing is that she is so quick."
Kohler is rarely out of position for a dig on the volleyball court.
"She can be at the end line and someone tips," Stauffenberg said. "She is able to get a hand on it. She just has the natural ability to read the ball and act so quickly. To have over five and half digs a game is impressive."
Kohler thought back on her best match. Earlier this year in a match in Arizona, Kohler recorded 30 digs.
"It's really tiring after every game just because being a libero you are only out for one rotation," Kohler said.
"You are moving the whole time. The whole position is tiring."
Kohler gave a lot of credit to Stauffenberg for putting her in the lineup for the last two years.
"Coach Stauffenberg has been amazing to me," Kohler said. "She has taught me a lot more than I could have been taught at high school.
Just getting the experience down helped me.
While attending CWC, Kohler married Kirby Kohler.
"I have known him since the sixth grade," Kohler said.
Kohler plans on staying in the Riverton area when she is finished at CWC.
She wants to go into dental assisting in the future.
"It's bittersweet because I love the sport of volleyball," Kohler said.
"It will be tough not having the competition. I just feel like my body is done. I don't feel like my body can take any more."
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