Hayden senior Belle Mazzola returns a ball Thursday as the Tigers ran by North Park to win for the seventh time this season. Hayden won in three easy sets, setting up a big game Saturday at home against Rangely.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Hayden senior Belle Mazzola returns a ball Thursday as the Tigers ran by North Park to win for the seventh time this season. Hayden won in three easy sets, setting up a big game Saturday at home against Rangely.

Hayden girls flex muscles against North Park

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— The Hayden Tigers can’t shake the feeling that they’re being underestimated, and as far as they’re concerned, that’s something that can last the entire season.

The only problem is they’re getting a bit difficult to ignore.

The Tigers easily sunk North Park on Thursday night, adding a tangible element to the massive improvement they’ve shown, even during this season. The win was their seventh, a big step for a team that won just four times a year ago. Then, Thursday’s victory came in three blowout sets, a huge step for Hayden, which went to five games to beat the exact same team less than two weeks ago.

“Even with a winning season, you just get the feeling everyone thinks we’re getting lucky,” coach Christine Planansky said. “This isn’t luck.”

Hayden handled North Park, 25-16, 25-11, 25-17, grabbing control early in each set. It was never threatened. Just what’s changed in the 12 days between wins against North Park says a lot about the overall improvement the Tigers are realizing.

On Thursday, they were powerful and creative on offense, setting up kill-master Jordan Temple for powerful swings but picking up points all around the court and from a bevy of hitters. Olivia Zehner also again was excellent serving, helping the team to an 8-0 lead in the third set.

“We’re stepping up and playing more as a team,” senior Belle Mazzola said, offering up the usual volleyball explanations. “We’re talking a lot more on the court.”

She quickly dove deeper, however, explaining why talking has made such a difference.

“We are running a lot more different offenses on the net. Before it was just the simple outside, middle, right side,” she said. “Now we can run slides and stacks, all because our communication is way up, and along with that our confidence.

“We’re really starting to settle into our groove.”

Planansky eagerly agreed, pointing to what the team has been able to accomplish in practice.

“I’m giving them harder things to work on,” she said. “We’re running more challenging plays, and that lets them know I do have confidence in them. When they’re able to succeed with it in practice, they build their own confidence, and it all builds from there.

“Once they were able to do it on the court, that’s all there is. There’s no stopping them.”

Hayden returns to the court for another home game at 2 p.m. Saturday against Rangely. The Panthers beat the Tigers 3-0 in both of last year’s match ups, and Hayden’s hoping those girls have a long memory.

“I’m hoping they underestimate us,” Planansky said. “When the girls take that game, it will squash any doubt that we’re just lucky.”

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9

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