Hayden With only three returning starters and a team devoid of experience, it was expected the Hayden High School volleyball team would endure some growing pains.
But after Tuesday's five-set loss (14-25, 25-23, 25-22, 13-25, 14-16) to North Park at home, Hayden coach Greg Johnson thinks that process will be expedited.
The Tigers certainly exhibited play that should have Johnson excited about the possibilities - mainly the work in the middle and at the net of senior Rachael Koehler.
But as with any young team, mistakes and nerves dotted the Tigers lineup Tuesday.
"We're still working on things for the end of the season," Johnson said. "I know that we're going to make mistakes. Hopefully each game we'll get a little better at them."
After falling in a back-and-forth first game, the Tigers gave a glimpse of their potential in the following two.
Hayden trailed most of the second game, down by as much as 13-8 at one point. But each time North Park looked like it would put the game away, Hayden would answer.
The Tigers finally took the lead at 23-22 - their first of the game since an early 4-3 advantage - before putting the Wildcats away.
In the third game, Koehler was dominant in the middle. The senior's ability at the net changed the North Park strategy and helped propel Hayden to a 25-22 win.
But that's when the Tigers' youth hurt them. Hayden quickly dropped the fourth game and entered the fifth game looking a little shaky.
The Tigers took a 14-13 lead before several errors gave North Park the game and the match.
"We're going to learn more from a loss than we would have from the win," said Koehler, who played despite battling an illness. "We're going to learn more what we need to work on and what we need to get better at. We have to work on our attitudes more. We have to keep a positive attitude when we're not doing well so we can get back into it."
The Tigers don't have too much time to think about Tuesday's loss. Hayden plays at 7 p.m. Thursday at Baggs, Wyo., and at 3 p.m. Saturday at Vail Christian.
While Johnson was disappointed, he expects to see a much more refined Tigers team the next few games.
"A lot of people are still figuring out what intensity you need to play with," he said. "If you want to be a winning team, you really have to dig deep. Every play has to be the same intensity and drive. Right now we're lacking some confidence. But that will come with time."