A lot of new faces and the addition of a tough competitor to the league doesn't faze Vicki Haddan, head coach of the Mufti County High School volleyball team.
Haddan emphasizes aggression and intensity, and this squad fits that mold. What they lack in experience, they make up in competitive spirit, according to the fourth-year coach.
"This is a group of girls that hates to lose, which is really great," Haddan said. "I took them to a camp during the first week of July, and their record was 11-4."
With that competitive edge and Haddan's own positive approach, the team, which finished second in the league last year, looks for another good season. Haddan is anxious to face the challenges of inexperience and a tough Palisade squad by relying on the strengths of her players.
"We lost all of our hitters last year, but that's okay," said the coach who is a Moffat County High School graduate. "I'll take the kids I've got this year," she added confidently.
Haddan looks, literally, to the center of the team for strength and continuity.
"Our biggest strength is Emily Mortenson our center. This is her third year, and she's been all-conference the last two years," said Haddan. Mortenson is also one of only two lettering players to return for the 2000 season.
Haddan will rely on Mortenson to lead the team while the coach imprints her philosophy on the team.
"As a coach, my biggest goal is to teach them to compete," Haddan said. "All athletes are afraid to compete, and I work at developing that killer attitude all the time."
The quietly intense coach does that with a tough practice regime that emphasizes the little things.
"I make them practice hard every day, and I score every drill," said Haddan. "There are always consequences for the losers." Those consequences bring results.
"It's amazing how that steps up the level of play every day," she said. "We also change the consequences for every drill they get so mad."
The intense practices are designed to emphasize fundamentals, which the coach feels is the most critical factor in winning.
"I tell them there's no little thing one bend of the elbow can change everything, so I pick and pick and pick," the coach said.
Haddan is just demanding of herself, though.
"I'm still working on things. I learn something every day," Haddan said. "It takes a while to figure out your philosophies."
The philosophy right now focuses on hard play and intensity, and Haddan feels that will pay dividends in the team's first tournament, Sept. 2. The tournament will bring eight teams to Craig, and Haddan's prediction is confident and simple.
"We should probably win the tournament this year," she said.
. That must be where the girls get that competitive fire.