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Hazen on the way back up | Volleyball
The tradition of the Hazen volleyball team is painfully apparent every time it practices. Plaques hang around the gym listing league championships and other accomplishments for every Highlander sport. Well, every sport except one: volleyball.
“The reputation of Hazen volleyball hasn’t been strong for awhile,” said first-year coach Zach Orcutt. “So I wasn’t sure how things were going to go.”
With four coaches in the past four years, it certainly has not been an easy few years on the Highlanders. They’ve dealt with everything from a coach walking out at a tournament, to a coach quitting on the bus ride home from the final match of the season.
Orcutt was immediately impressed with the team’s work ethic, chemistry and most surprisingly, commitment to the program. Those assets are proving valuable in the win column too, Hazen is 9-3 overall and 9-2 in Seamount play this season. The Highlanders are in second place, behind only Kennedy.
“I’m really impressed with how the seniors especially have been willing to stick it out and be so adaptable,” he said. “It speaks to how resilient they are. Part of their unity comes from knowing they have to depend on each other.”
Orcutt, a teacher at Hazen who previously coached at Newport, is working to give the team some much-needed stability. He started with getting warm-ups, balls and a net for the team.
“Stuff like that makes us feel like we’re wanted and have a dedicated coach,” said junior Kelsey Allen. “In the past we haven’t, it almost felt pointless. Everyone says they’re going to stay and then they’re gone. I feel like coach Zach is really going to be there.”
Orcutt also instilled a much more organized system than the team has had in previous years and worked to give the team constructive criticism - something else they haven’t heard much.
“It was difficult adjusting to a new system every year and relearning to trust someone every year,” said senior Lauren Catt. “I want to work hard for him because I don’t want to disappoint him. I don’t feel like I’ve had that in the past.”
Hazen made sub-districts last year, but didn’t go in to the tournament strong.
“We went to subs, but it didn’t feel like we really deserved it,” said junior Shelby Sturman. “This year we earned our way in.”
Orcutt said the team has a good shot to make districts, something Hazen hasn’t done in a long time.
“For the seniors it would be a real reason why they stuck through all this,” he said. “They’re getting an opportunity to leave this program way better off than when they got here.”
Getting to districts would “mean the world to us,” Catt said.
Sturman and Allen, both junior outside hitters, have been key. Sturman is one of the team’s best servers and Allen is the strongest hitter. Senior setter Lena Chindamany is leading the team in assists. New student Sablena Millinganya has been improving in the middle, and Catt’s leadership in the middle has been essential.
Sophomore libero Marcela Macias is one of the team’s best players and even won WIAA Athlete of the Week honors earlier this season.
“It was really cool not only because I’m a sophomore but because I’ve never played this position,” Macias said. “It was a big honor.”
Macias moved from outside hitter to libero this season.