“In high school volleyball, girls can get away with things by making athletic plays,” Hayes explained. “But, in the college game, you’re playing against better, faster athletes. And, if you get undisciplined it’s very easy to get burned at the collegiate level. So, I’ve had to try to train them to be more disciplined-thinking volleyball players instead of just showing up saying ‘I’m more athletic than everyone else.’ Being more athletic than everyone doesn’t really work at the collegiate level because every team has great athletes.”
All but three of current Cougars are underclassmen, a fact Hayes believes has helped the squad develop a strong cohesion at a faster pace than the average squad. It’s been most evident in the squad’s offensive attack, where two freshmen rank in the top 100 in the NAIA in kills.
Columbus East product Micayla Speidel has led the charge, with her 304 kills ranking third in the NAIA. An admitted introvert, the team’s chemistry has helped her break out of her shell, something she credits for her early success.
“I know, in high school, I was very inconsistent,” Speidel said. “Here, I knew Coach expected a lot from me kill-wise. I knew I had to cut down on errors. And, on the court, I’m like the quietest person, just very to myself. So, when everyone is going crazy after a kill and everything, that’s helped me a lot. It helps me get energized, and in return I think that helps a lot when I go out and just swing.”
Hayes’ first crop of recruits come from prep programs steeped in tradition. Southwood product Kaley Harness, who ranks 97th in the NAIA in kills with 169 and fourth in aces with 45, knows nothing but success in the sport.