Hayden volleyball has new attitude under 1st-year coach
HAYDEN — Hayden Valley High School senior Piper Jo Jones already adores her volleyball team, and they haven’t even started competing yet.
“It is probably the most positive environment I’ve been in a sport ever,” she said. “It’s only three weeks in, but so far, it’s been amazing. I’m bragging myself and my seniors up, but we’re doing a pretty awesome job of holding everyone accountable and keeping a good attitude.”
The team is under new leadership with Kaitlyn Rudolph stepping up from an assistant role to head coach. She’s bringing a new philosophy to the Tigers team.
“I like to portray that because a lot of the girls, when somebody is down or not in a very good mood, the whole team gets down,” Rudolph said. “If I’m in a good mood, it helps them and the overall team aspect of them working together and not getting mad at each other.”
Hayden has a superpower this year in keeping their heads up. They know they’ll make mistakes, but they’ll have a short memory, move on and focus on the next play. They struggled with that skill last year.
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Aiding the Tigers on that mission will be a crowd. Last year, when the team played in the spring, they weren’t allowed many guests. Towards the end of the quarantine-shortened season, a student section was able to attend, which changed the atmosphere drastically.
Hayden is hoping to harness that over-the-top student section energy all fall and use it to keep them positive and moving forward rather than dwelling on downfalls.
Rudolph took over the team from Lexi Cyphers, who moved to Colorado Springs. Cyphers encouraged Rudolph to apply for the job.
Already, she’s making the team her own, shifting the focus of the squad from defense to offense.
“I was an offensive player,” Rudolph said. “We’ve been so set on certain hitting plays; our competition knows what we’re going to do. I can show them how to go faster or how to do something different.”
Jones thinks the offense has the potential to be dynamic and unpredictable. Everyone is capable of playing multiple positions, and junior setter Bella Svoboda will be the center of it all.
“New setter hands of butter. Insane hands,” Jones said. “I think she’s going to be a great asset to the team. The middle and her already have a great connection.”
Senior Jillian Bennett is the middle in question. She’s tall, lean, energetic and explosive and will see a lot of action at the net.
The team is looking forward to homecoming against Plateau Valley, as well as Meeker, who generally serves the Tigers a quick loss. Last year, Hayden stole a set from the Cowboys, who lost just five sets in the regular season.
“If we play Meeker like we played them last year, we can hopefully steal another set,” Jones said. “And if we’re lucky, win.”
Rudolph isn’t focused on the wins and losses, although success would be fun. She’s just hoping to keep the girls positive through her first year as head coach.
“I’m looking forward to all the smiles,” she said. “We’ve had so much fun already. For homecoming and for parent night and the pink game, all of them having fun on the court will give me joy.”
To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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