This was the real Hayden High School volleyball team.
After a couple of weeks of marginal play, Hayden looked like the team that started the season hot, downing North Park on Tuesday, 25-16, 25-23, 23-25, 25-18.
"It feels good to come back and get a win," Hayden senior Caitlin Mahanna said. "We were clicking (Tuesday). Our serves were getting over, and we were passing better."
It's the passing that's proved the best indication about how the Tigers (12-4 overall) will play.
In the team's previous losses, Hayden hasn't passed well and the score has shown. When the Tigers have passed well - and allowed their uptempo offense to dictate play - they have become a tough team to beat.
Case in point was Tuesday's game.
After passing relatively well in the first two games and half of the third, mistakes started creeping on the court.
Hayden was up, 14-10, at one point in the third game, before errors started turning the tide. The two teams traded points, with the game tied at 23, before two Hayden errors gave the game to North Park.
In the fourth game, however, the Tigers were markedly better.
The passes were crisper, and Hayden took full advantage. The Tigers cruised to an 18-10 lead and weathered a brief Wildcats rally before closing the game out.
"If a team's punching you, it's can you punch them back?," Hayden coach Greg Johnson said. "We're learning. Right now, we're building up to districts."
Holli Salazar led the Tigers with 13 kills. Kylee Sweetser added nine kills, and Rachael Koehler had nine blocks.
With the district tournament less than three weeks away, it will be pivotal for the Tigers to start playing like they did in the beginning of the season.
That means keeping the attitude that helped Hayden establish itself as a legitimate threat to win the district tournament.
"We made a few lineup changes, so we'll see how those work out," Johnson said. "I feel good if we can mentally stay in the right frame of mind. If we are, we'll be fine going into districts, and we'll play real well. Once again, it's in our heads. We really have to stay positive and believe in ourselves."
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