OGDEN — Ogden High’s volleyball roster shows much of the same youth as it did in 2019, what with a handful of freshmen and sophomores playing a lot of big points.
The Tigers’ team this year looks similar in that regard. It’s still a young team, but with a year of experience in their heads.
Head coach Brad Hulse’s approach for the team is to instill the mindset that Ogden belongs on the court with whomever it’s playing.
“It’s not the programs of the past. (It’s) changing the tradition around here and just getting these kids to know that they belong and they can compete and play with anybody they want,” Hulse said.
It’s all about baby steps, but so far the Tigers appear to be making progress.
They have a 9-6 overall record and as of Thursday night, the No. 8 spot in the 4A RPI rankings, which would bring a first-round bye plus a home playoff game.
“This year it’s all about finishing the fight ... I wish state started tomorrow, the way they’re playing,” Hulse said.
Though Ogden’s 12-15 overall record last year doesn’t say much, the context it needs is it was one of the Tigers’ best records in quite some time.
The Tigers started four freshmen last year — Olivia Blackford, Soledad Vanorden, Rees Bockwoldt and Ashley Christensen — and all four are returning starters in 2020.
Now, the group isn’t totally young. There’s a couple of seniors that Hulse was very keen about: middle hitter Abby Halverson and setter Rachel Davis.
“Abby (Halverson’s) been great for us going to the middle, she played outside last year. I never thought she’d be doing what she’s doing so she’s been great for us there. Rees Bockwoldt, an outside hitter, we expected a good year out of her but it’s not just her hitting, but her all-around game,” Hulse said.
“And then Rachel (Davis), she’s kind of like the heart of the program and has been for a couple years,” Hulse said.
Thursday, the Tigers swept aside Ben Lomond in straight sets 25-9, 25-3, 25-7 to win their third region match in a row.
It was the teams’ first meeting of the year after their previously scheduled Sept. 8 contest was postponed due to the downslope wind event that knocked out power to thousands in the area, closing schools and canceling activities.
Ogden has been stressing avoiding unforced errors and not beating themselves. Against an overmatched Scots team, it was service winner after kill after block after service winner, and so on.
“We know that the unforced errors are going to happen, now it’s about — we want to limit them but if you make one, move on to the next point,” Hulse said. “They’ve been great with it. I think it’s been harder on me, because I want to stop and talk so much to them.”
It’s difficult to truly move on to the next point. The “next point” approach is popular in tennis, but often one will see even a seasoned veteran player muttering under her or his breath for minutes afterward about a missed shot.
The Tigers are in one of their better two-year stretches in awhile, but the work’s not done. They were blitzed in straight sets by first-place Uintah and lost in four sets to the Utes in their second meeting.
Right now they can hang on their hats on this: they started 0-3 in region play and have since won four of their last five region matches. Things are looking up for Ogden’s volleyball team, which hasn’t happened in a long time.