Hotchkiss volleyball coach Peter Nethington is constantly looking to the future. He's evaluating players, deciding which ones fit best where today, and thinking about where they will work best next season. He then begins giving them the skills they will need to fill in the gaps after the seniors graduate.
It helps, he said, that between playing at the high school and college level he's seen the game from about every position. "Having players with versatility is valuable to any team," said Nethington.
This is Nethington's first year at Hotchkiss. He and assistant coach Fadra Goaser are still familiarizing themselves with players and determining where individuals fit best this season. But one thing Nethington knows for sure: they have what it takes to improve on last year's 6-14 overall record. "This team has nowhere to go but up," he said.
"I feel like this is definitely the year to build our program up from what it has been," said junior middle blocker/hitter Carson Collins. "We've been improving a lot since we got our new coach."
Nethington started working with the team last spring, but was unable to make the Grand Valley summer tournament. Senior setter Morgan Miller said several moms took them. After just a short time working with their new coach, they won about half their games and played better than the prior summer.
Miller is the team's only setter and has played that position her entire high school career. While she has several options, Collins is her go-to hitter. "We're kind of like the Dynamic Duo. Even if it's a really bad pass she tends to be able to hit it," said Miller. "She's definitely got the experience."
A 5-foot, 11-inch junior, Collins started competing in seventh grade and has started on varsity since her freshman year. In addition to working with the team, this summer she played on an all-star team at the Colorado Mesa University volleyball camp in Grand Junction.
Collins said she believes the team can continue improving throughout the season.
In his short time with the team, the coach has helped the team break down its game, fix bad habits, and build it back up, she said. He's greatly improved their passing game and has put the team on a different rotation that helps them cover the floor much more efficiently than in past years.
He also makes the game interesting and uses metaphors like dropping the ball to compare it to life. "I like that he's super serious about volleyball," she said. He is making the team think more about the game and about life.
The team has several good hitters, said Miller. Among them, Ashley Ziemer, a five-foot-seven senior outside hitter and middle blocker. Senior Fatima Rodriquez and sophomores Shay Glaser and Elsie Mendoza-Vasquez are also good options at the net, and libero Yasmine Gaub is a good back-row option, she said.
Senior outside hitter Jordan Tamayo will sit out early-season play due to a knee injury and hopes to return before playoff season. Tamayo is a skilled and team-oriented player whose absence leaves a big gap, said Nethington. "That changes the dynamics for everybody."
Junior Aubree Harward and sophomore Elsie Mendoza-Vasquez will split time between varsity and JV.
Hotchkiss hosted its home opener against Caprock Academy (Grand Junction) Tuesday.
The Bulldog's team is on the road until Sept. 15-16 when it returns home to host North Park and West Grand.
Two fatal accidents occurred in Delta County within a two-day span last week.
Casey Gillenwater, 25, of Delta was killed the afternoon of Wednesday, Sept. 13, in a single-vehicle rollover on Highway 133 outside of Hotchkiss.