For many of the same reasons Kaitlyn Gehler loved her time at the University of Memphis, Gehler decided she wanted a change of scenery.
Gehler, a former Lakeside Lutheran athlete and native of Waterloo, announced on Twitter last week that she was going to transfer from the University of Memphis to the University of Wyoming (Laramie, Wy.) for the fall semester.
Gehler has played libero for the Memphis women’s volleyball team each of the last two seasons after graduating from Lakeside Lutheran in 2018.
“Being in such a big city didn’t feel like home,” Gehler said. “Being from Waterloo it was such a big change of scenery and ended up not being the right fit.”
Even though the junior-to-be enjoyed the county concerts and watching the Memphis Redbirds, a Class AAA affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals, her love of the environment wasn’t complete.
During the summer between her sophomore and junior year of high school, Gehler went to a camp at volleyball camp at Wyoming. Initially, Gehler didn’t think she would be comfortable living in Wyoming and being nearly 1,000 miles from home, so she orally committed to the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.
Sean Burnette, who was head coach of the Phoenix, left UW-Green Bay to coach at Memphis and Gehler follow him there.
“I fell in love with it before I even got on campus (in 2016),” Gehler said. “The road trip (after landing in a plane in Denver) from Denver to Laramie is the most beautiful thing I’ve seen. At camp, I got along great with the recruits, players and staff.”
The only reason she didn’t end up in the Rocky Mountains then was because of the distance away from home. Memphis forced her to get out of her comfort zone and now she’s headed to Wyoming.
“Once I got on campus (after deciding to transfer from Memphis), it was just like being there for camp,” Gehler said. “All the girls that I had known previously were still around, so we picked up where we left off. Being reunited with my camp roommate, KC (McMahon), was the best part. She is the world’s sweetest person and I cannot wait to play with her.”
Wyoming finished the 2019 season with a 22-9 record overall and a 16-2 record in the Mountain West — good enough for second place behind Colorado State. At Memphis, Gehler and the Tigers finished last in the American Athletic Conference in 2018 with four conference victories. The conference split into two divisions for the 2019 season and Memphis took fifth place out of six teams in the West Division with a 6-10 record.
Gehler, a Spanish major with a 4.0 grade-point average at Memphis, led the Tigers in digs her freshman and sophomore seasons. She had 2,000 digs in her career at Lakeside and helped the Warriors win the 2017 WIAA Division 3 state championship.
“One of my favorite things about playing for Memphis was being able to be part of building a program that will soon take off,” Gehler said. “This past season was just the start. I made lifelong friends there who helped me and supported me the whole time there and through my transfer process.”
But now the mountains are calling.
“Wyoming’s beauty takes my breath away,” Gehler said. “Academically, it’s a great fit and all of my Spanish courses transferred over. The university is so proud of their team and state which makes me so excited to play there. Wyoming volleyball is huge: Fans pack the stands and that is the exact experience I always dreamed of as a kid?