When she accepted the position as head volleyball coach for Hotchkiss in August, Kendall Roberts jumped at the opportunity. She had been waiting for a coaching position.
She also knew it was a rebuilding year. Hotchkiss had suffered through two losing seasons as a 3A team, and this fall entered Class 2A competition.
Hotchkiss was without a coach all summer, and the players took it upon themselves to work on their skills.
The Lady Bulldogs ended regulation play with two consecutive wins and a 4-6 league record. It was the team's best season in three years. They were seeded sixth going into last week's District 5 tournament at West Grand High School, and opened with losses against Vail Mountain and Rangely. They finished strong, posting a three-set win over Hayden.
The team has come a long way, said Roberts, "And in more ways than just skills. Mentally. Attitudes. All-around work ethics. They've just completely changed."
While this is her first job as head coach, Roberts is no stranger to competition, or to coaching.
Roberts graduated from Hotchkiss High School in 2002, and was an all-state volleyball player and state-champion high jumper. Her school record of 5-foot-6 still stands.
Coaching is in her blood. Roberts is the daughter of Colorado Mesa University head wrestling coach, Chuck Pipher, and the niece of Paonia head wrestling coach Andy Pipher. Her uncle, Charlie Pipher, is assistant wrestling coach at Western State College in Gunnison. Her younger sister, Grayson, helped lead the Paonia girls' basketball team to a state championship in 2010. Grayson also hopes to coach one day.
Her first season had its ups and downs, but overall, attitudes are good and skills are improving, said Roberts. "We just wish we had another season" to improve upon what they learned.
Senior players, including middle hitter Savannah Rocha, see a big change in this year's team. Rocha, a middle hitter, said her confidence level going into district play was at an all-time high.
"Coach said just hit the ball and you'll get a kill, and that's what's happening." said Rocha, After two seasons as an outside hitter, she started the season at middle, then shifted back to the outside.
Rocha plays much taller than her height of 5-foot-8. A state-qualifying high jumper, she can drive in a power shot, or gently bypass the defense to put the ball in the hole.In the last two games of the season Rocha had 15 kills against Soroco, and made key blocks and kills in the win over Plateau Valley. "We've had a lot more wins than the last two seasons, and I owe those wins to the coach."
"We've come far," said senior middle hitter Kristina Deloury, adding that they would love to have more time to put their skills into practice. "We've seen how far we can go and what we can do."
The Lady Bulldogs will lose half of their varsity squad, including Faline Farmer, Christina Jaramilli, Ciara Beegle, Kati Evans and Sadie Smith.
Roberts is already looking ahead to summer training, and to the 2013 season. She will have three returning setters, including Kelli Buhrdorf, Jessie Violett and Arial Duncan. Outside hitters Mandi Chermak and Daryl Batt will be seniors, and blockers Brielle Palmer and Katie Richards will be juniors.
Hotchkiss also had 16 freshmen and nine sophomores out for this year's team.
Richards, a 5-foot-10 blocker, played on junior varsity much of the season. Roberts pulled her in as a blocker for the district tournament.
Richards said she's already looking forward to next season. "We've become a big family," said Richards with a smile. "It's been really fun."blog comments powered by Disqus