Hayden volleyball looking better as season progresses | SteamboatToday.com

Hayden volleyball looking better as season progresses

Luke Graham

Hayden High School volleyball players practice last week in the school's gym. Under first-year coach Greg Johnson, the Tigers have a 10-3 record.

— The minute first-year Hayden High School volleyball coach Greg Johnson stepped into the gymnasium and got a look at the new group of girls he was coaching, he immediately associated the team with a word that makes coaches wary.

Potential.

Certainly the potential was there, with athletes all across the floor.

But coming off a .500 season where the Tigers saw that potential turn into a frustrating end result, Johnson knew there was work to do.

“I really didn’t want to have expectations until I saw the team,” Johnson said. “I thought we could be good because we were athletic. After the Plateau Valley tournament, I told the girls we had a really good chance to be a good team.”

Hayden’s more than exceeded those expectations, rapidly becoming one of the three teams to beat in the district, along with Paonia and Meeker. Johnson said it’s a real possibility to win districts, get to regionals and potentially even make state.

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Not bad for a team that looked lost at times last year and pretty much returned the same core of players in 2008.

“It was frustrating last year losing game after game,” Hayden senior Holli Salazar said. “You knew you had so much potential to be so much better. It was frustrating. We were losing the games that we should be winning.”

That’s not the case this year.

Certainly, Hayden has taken its bumps so far. But that’s to be expected under a first-year coach who is implementing an offense not widely seen in Colorado.

Johnson, who played high school volleyball in Chicago and played and coached club volleyball at Eastern Illinois, said he’s putting in a high-paced offense that tries to take advantage of hitting in the middle.

“The speed of the game is a little more faster, and that’s what I’m trying to bring to my girls here,” Johnson said. “That fast offense and always attacking. It makes it challenging for the other teams.”

Although Johnson’s offense seems to be part of the revitalization of Hayden volleyball, the coach said it was equally important to change the attitude and culture.

Salazar admitted last year was tough and said that if things started to go bad during a game, there wasn’t much chance of reversing the trend.

This year, however, Hayden has shown a resiliency when the team falls behind. In several games this year, the Tigers have fallen behind only to fight back and win.

“Everybody is having that mindset where we can win, instead of like last year when we would get down,” Salazar said. “Last year was last year, and we know this is a new year.”

Although Hayden has struggled a bit recently – the Tigers are 1-2 in their past three games – the team has established itself as one to beat when postseason play starts.

“If we keep getting better each game and not get complacent, we have a great chance to go far,” Johnson said. “It’s totally up to the girls. It’s how much work they want to put into it. But I know they want to be better. They want it every time we come to practice.”

Hayden picks up win

The Hayden High School volleyball team picked up a win Monday, downing DeBeque in three games.

Hayden won, 25-7, 25-11, 25-19, in a game that was a makeup from a postponement early in the year.

Holli Salazar led the Tigers with six kills. Hayden also had 17 aces.

The win improves the Tigers to 10-3 overall and 4-2 in district play. The team next plays at 6 p.m. Friday at home against Rangely. The game will be part of the school’s homecoming festivities.