Prior to every set, members of the Hayfield volleyball team pump themselves up by huddling and shouting the team motto.
"Every game we start with ‘Do work,’" head coach Jeff Berggren said. "This is their job. They’re out on the floor to beat every team in the district, and every other team we face, to 25" points.
It took nearly three full sets for Hayfield to reach its desired level of intensity during an Oct. 18 rematch of last season’s National District championship match against Yorktown. But once the Hawks got down to business, they continued doing work until their improbable comeback was finished.
Hayfield dropped the first two sets of Monday’s match and were one point away from being swept. Trailing 24-23 in the third, the Hawks captured three consecutive points to win the set and three straight sets to win the match, 3-2 (21-25, 22-25, 26-24, 25-19, 15-7), at Yorktown High School. With the victory, the Hawks (11-1 overall, 4-0 district) likely secured the No. 1 seed in the district tournament, giving them home-court advantage throughout. It was Hayfield’s 11th consecutive win after dropping its opener against West Springfield.
Last season, Yorktown won the regular season meeting between the two teams at Hayfield Secondary School. The Hawks, in their first season in the National District, won the rematch in the district tournament final at Yorktown.
"We’re very enthused right now, and we’re ready to play Yorktown again," senior middle hitter Alex Lambert said after Monday’s match. "This was just a déjà vu of last year. We brought our ‘A’ game in the last three games. … We woke up and we knew we were the better team."
The Hawks have played like the best team on the floor for most of the season. Hayfield went nine consecutive matches without losing a set, a streak which spanned the entire month of September and halfway through October. The two sets Hayfield dropped to Yorktown were the first the Hawks had lost since needing five sets to beat Lake Braddock on Aug. 31. The Hawks are ranked No. 6 in the region in the latest version of the Northern Region Volleyball Coaches Association top 10 poll.
"This is the best team Hayfield will see," Lambert said. "We came a long way since freshman year. There were four of us on varsity and I knew when it was our senior year we would dominate."
Five-foot-11 Lambert and 5-foot-10 outside hitter Jessie Kolden are Hayfield’s top offensive threats. Each finished with 22 kills against Yorktown. Leading 6-5 in the deciding fifth set, the Hawks closed the match on a 9-2 run, including five combined points from the senior duo. For the season, Lambert led the Hawks with 180 kills in 49 games played and Kolden was second with 100 kills in 41 games.
"It makes it easy as a coach to have girls like [Lambert and Kolden] on the team," Berggren said. "If I’m having an off day and I walk into practice and I’m feeling like I don’t really know what I want to do, they have something. ‘Hey, coach, let’s try this new drill. Hey, let’s do this, let’s do that.’
"They possess the work [ethic] and they possess the drive. They make it very easy to want to be there, want to coach them and have fun and smile and laugh at practice, even when we’re having an off day. Watching them grow as freshmen, when I was coaching the freshman team, to now as seniors, has been phenomenal."
The Hawks are an experienced bunch, with eight seniors and one sophomore on the team. Seniors Laura Biver (outside hitter), Shannen Cochraham (middle hitter), Paige Gilliland (outside hitter), Shannon Pier (setter), Marie Schirmacher (libero) and Katie Swain (middle hitter) and sophomore Alyssa Del Rosario (defensive specialist) complete the roster.
While Hayfield is on a roll, the team still has areas in which it can improve. Two examples are the Hawks starting poorly against Yorktown and allowing Patriots middle blocker Ashley Rock to finish with 21 kills and seven blocks.
"With nine girls on the team, eight of them being seniors, we’re really looking to put up another district title on the wall," Berggren said. "The more that we focus on the shortcomings of [our] game, the stronger our overall game will be."
To win a second consecutive district championship, all signs point to Hayfield needing to beat Yorktown, ranked No. 8 in the latest NRVCA top 10 poll, in the championship match.
"This game doesn’t even matter," Rock said Monday. "It’s regular season. All it does is seed us for the district tournament. We’re going to play them in two weeks."
If the two teams meet again, one Hawk thinks Hayfield will be ready.
"I think we know what to expect now," Lambert said, "so when the playoffs come, we’ll definitely see them and we’ll beat them in three."