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Knights coming together under new coach | Volleyball

Kamiak has reeled off three wins after starting season with three straight losses


Last updated 10/5/2022 at 11:59am

David Pan

Kamiak's Maya Ponzo and Nadia Rothfull go up for a block.

The Kamiak volleyball team is bouncing back under new coach Nicole Hayes.

The Knights started the season with three consecutive 3-1 losses, but since then have reeled off three straight victories over Woodinville (3-2), Inglemoor (3-0), and Roosevelt (3-1). The Knights are scheduled to kick off league play against Glacier Peak Wednesday, Sept. 28.

The first victory of the season against the Falcons was a back-and-forth match that required the Knights to dig deep.

"They showed a lot of competitiveness after being down a set and rallying back," said Hayes, a 2011 Mariner graduate. "I saw, more importantly, these seniors really take on a leadership role during that game. They really rallied around some of the younger kids and really helped them feel comfortable in those pressure situations that a five-set match brings. A couple of our sets were won or lost by two points."

Though she graduated from Kamiak's district rival, Hayes had ties to the Kamiak program. Her younger sister played for the Knights for four years.

"I always really liked the atmosphere that the fans bring," Hayes said. "I really liked the family atmosphere, and I wanted to bring that kind of feel to my own program. When the opportunity (opening) presented itself, I jumped at it."

A cornerstone of Hayes' program is accountability.

"I really stress the importance that we win as a team and we lose as a team," she said. "And more importantly, when we do lose as a team, we grow together in those losses. And then we grow together in the wins."

Senior co-captain Chloe Lee said Hayes listens to the players when they express their concerns, and she is good at implementing positive changes.

"She's really big on discipline," Lee added. "You have to own up to your consequences, and not in a mean sense, but just in a motivating factor where you really have to focus. You're here for a purpose. You're here to make progress, and she keeps us on track in that sense."

Senior co-captain Sasha Ponzo appreciates how Hayes pushes the Knights.

"She's been really motivating us because she knows our potential and she's not going to let us get away with doing less," Ponzo said.

Kamiak saw a significant turnover from last year with the graduation of eight seniors. The Knights return five varsity players with the rest of the squad composed of junior varsity players or those new to the program, including two freshmen.

Lee said the team had some early jitters at the start of the season. But after analyzing how they played, the Knights worked on their serve/receive and defense.

"That was what we focused on mainly," Lee said. "And it really showed in the (Woodinville) game. We were playing really scrappy and we felt a lot more confident as a team."

Added Ponzo, "We had a lot better communication."

Lee said that often a team's success can be traced to chemistry and the personal connections between players.

"We have such good chemistry outside of the court as well," Lee said. "It's really good that we can pick each other up. ... That adds to our energy. We build off of each other in that sense."

Ponza likes the progress the Knights already have made since the start of the season.

"Sometimes it's hard when you get a bunch of new people on a team," she said. "I think we've been handling it really well, and we've been really open with each other – talking and communicating. So if something's not working, we've been able to fix it."

Kamiak has good height with their senior middle blockers Nayella George (5-foot-11) and Nadia Rothfuss (5-10).

Hayes plans to run a balanced offense.

David Pan

Kamiak's Chloe Lee serves the ball against Lynnwood.

"I don't necessarily want them to look towards one specific person to provide most of the points," she said. "I'm more of the coach that looks to spread the offense. But obviously, in pressure situations, I've been teaching my setters to find the girl that had the hottest hand at the moment and go to them instead of targeting one specific person and putting that load on that one person. We're definitely spreading our offense, which I think will let us become more successful."

In the end, Hayes said her goal is to make sure every player in the program – from freshmen on the C team to seniors on varsity – feels comfortable stepping into the gym every day.

Ponzo noted that Hayes stresses that all teams should be cheering for each other during matches.

"It feels really nice to get to know everyone in the program, not just my own team."


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