You’ve got to tip your hat to the El Dorado High volleyball team this season.
Granted, the Cougars have talent on the court. Between Kylee Hardy’s distribution at the net, Courtney Macklin’s power above it, Keeley Franz’ ability to create a “where did she come from?” moment and the capabilities of each girl on the roster (yes, even freshman Kylie Haverson — keep an eye on her the next three years), El Dorado has quality players.
But volleyball is a game of chemistry and momentum. No chemistry, no momentum.
You could say that was the case at the beginning of the year. You can’t blame the girls. With no head coach less than three weeks before the season began, it’s hard to expect anyone, on late notice, could come in to coordinate enough team-building and communication to manufacture a competitive squad.
Enter former varsity head coach Sharon Hardy. Though she came to the rescue there were a lot of questions.
“When I stepped in on an interim basis, I wasn’t sure exactly how far to push everyone,” Hardy said. “Do I sort of help out? Do I push the girls hard? And very quickly it went from wondering how hard to go — to saying ‘this team has talent — we want to be competitive.”
This is the same Hardy who led El Dorado to a series of championship seasons in the late 90s and early 2000s with her “Fab Five” group of girls that included daughter Lindsay who went on to play for St. Mary’s in Moraga. Sharon’s middle daughter, Madison, now on the New Mexico State women’s volleyball team, also came through the Cougar program while Kylee, another daughter, is a senior on this year’s Cougars’ squad.
You may remember the Cougars stepping out and going toe-to-toe with St. Francis and powerhouse programs throughout the state. That was a program — and man, was that fun.
Knowing coach Hardy’s past successes, it’s doubtful she’d hit the cruise control button and just “help out.” Like her players, she’s a competitor and wants to win.
What she built in very short time was a unit that believed it could win. Much like those previous El Dorado teams of the past, the 20012 version knew they could play with anyone.
It’s one thing to want it, it’s another to believe it’s yours to take. And when the switch flipped on inside 11 Cougars this year — you got what you saw Tuesday night (see accompanying story) against Union Mine — a team that went out and took it.
Defeating Union Mine, last year’s Division IV state champs, was no easy task. Yes, Vista del Lago has earned a solid place atop the Sierra Valley Conference standings but the Lady D’backs, despite the loss of key personnel to graduation, is a force to be reckoned with. Union Mine still has great coaching, solid defense and a clever offense to make for a dangerous combination.
In the team’s first matchup, the D’backs stopped El Dorado in its tracks 3-1 at the Snake Pit. Perhaps then El Dorado hadn’t yet accepted that winning belief it needed but that attitude was there Tuesday. Though the box scores and schedule might define it as an upset — this was not a weaker squad defeating a stronger squad but two stellar programs clashing head-to-head.
The two ended up tied in the standings. How much closer can it get?