Coaching Duo Remains Cowgirl Volleyball Staple

For the past 10 years, Wyoming volleyball fans have seen a familiar face, both on the court and on the sidelines for the better part of the decade, and beginning this fall, another familiar Cowgirl face will grace the sidelines for UW.

Reese Plante will be in her fourth season this fall as the Assistant Director of Player Development for the Cowgirls while Becky Baker (Stewart) was hired in late January to be the new assistant coach with the program.

Plante, who was a four-year letterwinner at UW (2010-13), was also a four-time Academic All-Mountain West and MW Scholar Athlete selection while wearing the Brown and Gold. She finished her career fourth all-time with 440 total blocks and 447 sets played. Additionally, she is sixth in Cowgirl history with a .288 career hitting percentage. She earned an art degree from UW with a marketing communication minor in May of 2014.

Baker meanwhile, was a two-time Mountain West All-Conference honoree (2012 and 2013) and a three-time Mountain West All-Academic Team member (2011-13). Until 2019, when Madi Fields surpassed her, Baker was the program record-holder for most career digs at Wyoming with 1,683. She still holds the single-season record at UW with 624 digs in 2013 and recorded three seasons that rank in the top-10 for single-season digs. Baker graduated from Wyoming in the spring of 2015. Prior to joining the UW coaching staff, Baker was the head volleyball coach at Laramie High School from 2015 to 2019.

Neither planned to go into the coaching field when they arrived at Wyoming, but eventually, both found a passion for coaching the game.

“I had been coaching at little kid camps and those things since I was in high school,” said Baker.

“Then I did a lot in college at the UW camps and got work with a wide age group and part way through my college career, I thought, ‘this is something I think I want to do in my future.’ I didn’t know at what level or what that was going to look like, I just knew that I wanted to get involved.”

“I didn’t know, honestly,” said Plante.

“I think after graduating I knew that I wanted to keep playing. I loved volleyball and loved being around it, so I wanted to just keep playing. After school, I was going to go more into my major of graphic design and I did that for a while and kept on playing. Then one day, coach (Chad) Callihan called me about the job. It’s funny because when I was playing at Wyoming, I looked at the person who was in that positon I’m in now and I would always think ‘that would be the coolest job’. Once Chad called me about the position, I just knew that I wanted to get back involved with volleyball. I love Wyoming so much, but it kind of came out of the blue, but I love my job now!”

Head Coach Chad Callihan, who will be entering his eighth season at UW in 2020, is the program’s all-time leader in career wins and has compiled 144 with the Cowgirls. During his time at Wyoming, Callihan has led the Cowgirls to five 20-win seasons. Prior to his arrival in Laramie, UW had seven 20-win seasons in program history. So what’s it like for a pair of former student-athletes and now staff members?

“I think it is super cool,” said Baker.

“I think we have a perspective that a lot of people don’t get to have. Playing for coach we got to see what his expectations were and the kind of work ethic you needed to have and the type of student-athlete he looks to have on his court. To be able to take some of the input that we had as players and get to apply that as a coach is nice in terms of what he is looking for. It obviously made my decision to go for the open position this past winter easy, since I already had the positive relationship with coach.”

Plante agreed, saying “It’s definitely a different relationship to go through from when we played for him, to working with him now.”

“Something our senior year that he did a great job of as a new head coach, with girls he didn’t recruit, is, he did a really good job of building relationships with everyone and showed that he cared about us as people and not just volleyball players. That’s something that he’s really good at. The way he built that up with us, made me want to have a continued relationship with the program past college.”

It also provides the duo with an advantage that a lot of staffs around the country didn’t have when first working together. That is, having colleagues on staff that they’ve built prior relationships with, in the same volleyball program.

“I would say even back when Chad called me about the job, kind of knowing him already and what I was getting myself into and what to expect, was big,” said Plante.

“A lot of times with a new job, you have to find out how you’re going to mesh personality-wise and if you’re going to get along with someone. But, having a prior relationship, it just helped me to decide and come to work with him, because I already knew his personality and that I would get along with him, stuff like that.”

“I definitely think it’s a big advantage,” added Baker.

“It’s just one of those learning curves that you kind of get to skip. Especially for me, moving up to the collegiate coaching level, there’s obviously so many things to learn, but being able to not worry about having to build this brand new relationship, even though obviously it’s different from being a player and now being a friend and coaching with someone.”

“It’s just exciting because you already have that foundation. It has definitely helped as a new hire, even just logistically – I know the type of systems he likes to run, what he wants to run defensively, stuff like that. Obviously there are some differences and new things, but it’s nice to kind of have that leg up already and not have to learn every little thing.”

A big reason for the program’s success in recent years, is the stability that Callihan has brought to the program and the same, steady approach. Both Baker and Plante have seen the similarities both as players and now as colleagues.

“Even in the short amount of time that I’ve been able to be around the program in this capacity, I see a lot of similarities,” said Baker.

“I still remember when he first got here, I was able to finally change something during practice that he had wanted me to work on, and I remember he hopped off a box and celebrated with me and he was so excited and so fired up about it. Then I saw him do the same type of thing this spring during practice with one of the girls and it kind of brought me back to then. He’s always been that super strong and supportive coach. Even in the short period of time that I’ve been here I’ve been able to see those types of things and that’s been fun.”

“I’d go back to the relationship aspect again,” Plante commented.

“I think that was just so big for me my senior year and I think coach just re-instilled in me that love for the game my final season. I see him that same way toward the girls now – showing them how he cares about them as people.”

As with most who either attend or work at UW, the two fell in love with the school, the state and the town of Laramie and wanted to remain close to their alma mater after graduation and remain involved with the Cowgirl volleyball program.

“I think it’s one of the coolest parts about getting to make this transition,” said Baker.

“My husband and I loved the experience so much here and we loved the university and wanted to stay close and stay involved with the school. When this opportunity came up, the chance to help build and make this program even better, and to get to be a part of that again, there’s no way to put it into words what it means to me. It’s a one in a million deal.”

“I would definitely echo that,” commented Plante.

“I think it’s so special. When I look back at my experience as a student-athlete at Wyoming, I still get chills thinking about it. Going through all of the experiences with my teammates and my best friends. If I could choose my school again, I would choose UW again, no question. I love every part of this school – the fans, the support, everything about it is just so special.”

“Being able to hopefully be a part of creating that same experience for more student-athletes that come through here, I think that is what makes it so cool. I have so much pride for the school and I love it so much. I can’t imagine having picked any other school,” continued Plante.