Even though he’s been her head volleyball coach since 2018, Brayden Wacker can still make his little sister blush.
All it took was a visit from the best college volleyball player in the United States.
“I was able to set up a Zoom meeting with Kathryn Plummer from Stanford,” said Wacker, a 2014 Melstone graduate and the school’s third-year volleyball coach. Plummer won three NCAA national championships as an outside hitter at Stanford from 2016-19. She was a three-time All-American and two-time player of the year.
“I got to surprise all the girls and they didn't quite believe me when I was showing them a video and then paused for a quick second and told them that they were going to be Zooming with Kathryn Plummer,” Wacker continued, “and Draya turned about as bright red as the color of the shirt I was wearing.”
Draya Wacker, a junior at Melstone and the youngest of the four Wacker siblings, is now a two-time American Volleyball Coaches Association Montana player of the week after claiming the first accolade of the 2020 high school volleyball season. The Broncs started the season last week with a five-set win over rival Roy-Winifred and then were swept by Class B Red Lodge. Draya had 44 kills in the eight sets.
But it was that win over Roy-Winifred that meant more than anything to Melstone, which is in just its third season back as its own program. The Broncs stood on their own from 2009-14, but then co-opped with Roundup from 2015-17.
While sustained success has eluded the Broncs, this year’s team has high expectations and the horses to get there. Melstone made its first district championship appearance last season, losing in three sets to Roy-Winifred in the District 5C title match. This year’s season-opening win over Roy-Winifred was the first time Melstone had beaten the Outlaws in eight years.
“We kind of started off a little sluggish, had some slow per-set scores there, some nerves, I would say, hitting the ball out of bounds,” said Brayden Wacker. “But once the girls kind of settled in and started trusting each other, you could tell that they realize that if they're honed in and focused that we could definitely reach some of those goals we've set for the season.”
And the Broncs aren’t shy about where this season’s goals lie.
“I believe we can definitely get back (to the district championship) and hopefully finish that last little bit of the climb,” Brayden Wacker said. “We know we're obviously in a pretty tough district with Roy-Winifred and (Hobson-Moore-Judith Gap). … The girls have made it kind of a goal, though, to try to get some state experience this year.”
If the Broncs are to make that state appearance, they’ll need continued strong play from two of the same girls who helped them advance to the Class C girls basketball state tournament last winter: Draya Wacker and Koye Rindal. Draya Wacker, a 5-foot-8 outside hitter, was an all-state selection last year, while Rindal, a 5-1 setter, was a second-team all-conference choice last year as a freshman.
That duo leads a group of solid and experienced role players looking to take the next step in its progression, which has admittedly faced its struggles over the past few years.
When it comes to athletics, Melstone is, first and foremost, a basketball school. The boys basketball team won the Class C state championship back in 2006, made back-to-back state tournament appearances in 2012 and 2013 when Brayden Wacker was in high school and has reached the state tournament each of the past three seasons. The girls basketball team reached the semifinal round of the state tournament in March.
There’s an obvious excitement around the Melstone basketball programs, so Brayden Wacker, still just 24 years old, has worked the past three years to drum up similar enthusiasm about the volleyball program.
“I'm trying to really create a high culture of volleyball,” he said, adding that he’s “really trying to get a better following and get the support from the community.”
The best way to garner that support is by building a winning program, and the Broncs seem to be well on their way.
Just ask the best college volleyball player in the country.