By Kurt Johnson
Photos by Shane Marshall
After winning the 4A state volleyball championship as a major underdog in 2011, Timpview became a marked team in 2012. That season ended with a title game loss to Sky View that drove the 2013 team as it buried the competition on the way to its second championship in three years.
Now, this year’s Thunderbirds are faced with the same prospect they faced two years ago. Everyone wants to knock off Timpview, and it gets everyone’s best effort. But with some new players taking the place of its leaders of the past four campaigns – graduated four-year starters Jessie Jorgensen and Lauryn Dela Cruz – the Thunderbirds are rolling again.
“2012 was a rough year. 2011 had happened and we came out of nowhere, but then everybody knew who we were,” said head coach Kristen Bailey. “We did have a target on our backs. It’s the best burden that you’ll ever want to carry, to be the defending state champs, but it is a burden and you do have a big target on your back.”
Coach Bailey began the process of mental preparation even before her team started its physical preparation for this season.
“We had a conversation, I think it was at the end of last school year and I made it very clear to these girls right in the beginning, before summer workouts even started, that we’re not 2013, we’re not,” Bailey said. “Lauryn and Jessie are gone and we brought in some new girls, and this is a new team. We’re not here to repeat, we’re just here to be the very best that we can be, and if that is good enough for a state championship, then so be it. They want to be the best they can be and they don’t want to let each other down.”
Creating a Legacy
Prior to this four-year run, Timpview’s success on the volleyball court was non-existent. Then, led by Bailey and aided by the consistent leadership of Jorgensen and Dela Cruz, the program has been transformed into one of the state’s elite.
“I feel like we have a legacy in the last couple of years that, no matter if someone doesn’t think they’re good coming to Timpview volleyball, they know they’re going to get the coaching because we have awesome coaches and we have a tradition of winning,” said senior Lacy Haddock. “We don’t really accept anything other than that.”
“I think that all of us think that as we come into Timpview volleyball,” said senior Annie Hofheins. “Timpview volleyball has a good name and we all want to be Timpview volleyball players, so we don’t accept anything less than winning and we all want it enough that we do win.”
With off-season retreats, intense workouts and a lot of hard work on the volleyball court, Bailey is building something special at Timpview. The players feel a strong bond with each other that lends itself to the success they have enjoyed in competition.
“We only moved here a year and half ago,” Lacy Haddock said. “At first, we didn’t hang out with anyone outside of volleyball. We didn’t hang out with anyone, but practice, that’s where me and Lyndie bonded with the team. We didn’t know anyone, but it started with volleyball and workouts.”
The Haddock twin sisters have been a huge addition for the Thunderbirds, joining with a group of young ladies who have been playing together for a long time.
“The others senior on the team, we’ve playing together since sixth grade or seventh grade, so we’ve built it off the court and on the court, always playing with each other, said senior libero Kirsten Dahl. “It’s like a family.”
“We’re just like a family,” Hofheins said. “We’re all sisters and we’re all best friends. We’re all teammates. I don’t know how you’re going to beat a team that has heart and dedication and works so hard and is family. There’s nothing that can stop that.”
“In volleyball, you learn a lot of lessons, not just skill or volleyball-wise, but life lessons of how to work with people, how to build connections and also how to be a leader,” said senior setter Maliyah Tela.
Of course it helps when the family is talented and that is certainly the case here. This year’s team begins with Lyndie and Lacy Haddock, who have committed to play collegiately at Brigham Young University. The senior twins moved in from Colorado in the middle of their sophomore year and provided a huge talent boost to this group.
“I play volleyball because I love competition and the thrill of it,” Lyndie Haddock said. “I just love being on a team and you can’t get that anywhere else unless you’re on a team. It’s the things you learn and the bonds you make with people. You’re with your team more in-season that you see your family, and so we become family.”
Lyndie is the setter who doubles as a hitter when the situation calls for it. Her creativity with the ball makes her a tough matchup, especially with all of the options she has available when setting the ball. Those options start with her sister, who pounds balls home with amazing power and accuracy, particularly when you consider that, at 5-foot-10, she does not have the height of your typical dominating outside hitter.
“We’re all not very tall,” Lacy Haddock said. ” I feel like we play with the most heart and that’s why we win. I think we’re skilled, but we have heart. We’re not tall at all, but we’re all very athletic and we all have the heart to win. We all just want to win more than anyone else.”
It also helps when you have seven seniors who have been there. Timpview has been in the title game each of the past three seasons, and while some of these players were not in the regular rotation prior to this year, they know what a deep tournament run feels like.
“Just because you have great players on your team doesn’t mean that they’re great leaders, but Lacy and Lyndie are great players and they are great leaders,” Bailey said. “All of my seniors are great leaders, on and off the court. I stress that a lot with my seniors every year. I call them in and tell them exactly what I expect of them and one of those things is to take care of the little girls. If those little girls grow up to be big seniors that everyone looks up to…”
Replacing those four-year starters presented a challenge for Bailey, and that required a few strategic adjustments, but the team has adapted well.
“I cannot expect Annie or Maliyah to be Lauryn and Jessie,” Bailey said. “We played to Lauryn and Jessie’s strengths, and they had a lot of strengths. Now, we’re playing to Annie and Maliyah’s strengths, which are different strengths, but we make sure we don’t try to fit people into our program. We fit what we are with what we have.”
While outside observers wondered how this year’s Timpview squad could possible duplicate its recent run of success after the graduation of two superstar players, there was never a doubt inside the program.
“We just had to learn to step it up because after Jessie and Lauryn left, I don’t think any of us were really worried about this huge hole in our team because we have a lot of people who are very athletic and pretty talented and we just had to work on bettering ourselves,” said senior Anessa Atuaia.
The early part of this season featured some interesting matches for this year’s Thunderbirds. There was a preseason tournament loss to Sky View and two early full-length battles in which Timpview dropped the first two sets and had to fight back to win in five. Those contests against defending 5A state champion Pleasant Grove and Region 8 rival Salem Hills taught this group a lot about itself and its ability to battle back.
“It’s not one person. One person can’t change everything, It’s all of us, especially the seniors who are on the court,” Lyndie Haddock said. “We get the urgency, and we have to play good. We’re a finishing team. We always finish strong. It’s not just one player or a couple players, it’s all of us.”
Keys to Repeat Title
A number of factors will come into play as Timpview hits the court at Utah Valley University to defend its most recent state championship. The Thunderbirds believe they are a much different team than the one that lost to Sky View in early September.
“I feel like we get better every single game,” Lacy Haddock said. “If you look at us now and look at us as the start of the season, we are completely different. Everyone has stepped up. Losing Jessie and Lauryn was hard for the team, but we’ve had so many people step up, like they played in the state championship game last year. I’m really confident that we will do what we’ve been working hard to accomplish.”
Then, there’s that state tournament experience that’s hard to duplicate unless you’ve been there. Before that 2011 title run, Bailey took her team to the 3A state tournament just so it could get a feel for the atmosphere of postseason intensity. Now, they know that feeling first hand.
“I think it’s a big strength for our team that we’ve all been in the state championship game,” Lyndie Haddock said. “We all have experience at that level and in high school that’s the highest pressure level that you can get. We’ve all been there, so I think nerves-wise, I don’t think we’ll have a problem. We’ve just got to keep our composure and I have no doubt. We’ve worked so hard this entire year and we can put it together at the end.”
As it did last year, it all started with that team retreat and the message that this team was in for a fight as it looks to repeat.
“I fight for each one of my teammates,” said senior Kortnie McKee. “Obviously I fight for myself because I want to be the best I can, but I don’t want to let them down. There was a quote we heard on our retreat that was like – ‘You want to be honest with your teammates, and honesty is to be able to look them in the eyes and know you did everything you could for them.’ That’s why I fight, because I want to be able to look my teammates in the eye and know I did the best I could.”
“I come back to the gym every day just because I love it,” Dahl said. “There’s nothing more satisfying than knowing that you can walk into a gym full of your best friends every day and to know that you’re going to work together to reach your ultimate goal. For us, that’s a state championship.”