The Niwot Cougars volleyball team is faced with a challenge to start the season. After graduating an elite senior class last year, now is the time to write a new chapter in the program’s history.
Fortunately for Niwot, a slew of fresh faces has brought new excitement to the program. Head coach Daisha Agho will lead the Cougars, who are comprised of seven underclassmen and just one senior on the varsity squad.
“It’s definitely a huge gap, we got to fill some shoes for sure, but as far as the girls’ mentality this year and all that stuff, they’re fine, they knew that was coming,” said Agho, who enters her third year at Niwot. “For them to be able to take that and accept it this year, it’s kind of a really exciting and fun thing to see them do and watch.”
Despite the young roster, Niwot still holds the experience and wisdom from its 4A state-runner up performance last year.
“We still have two pretty experienced players coming back in Tasha (Terekhova) and Zoe Gibbs,” Agho said. “So we’re gonna lean on them just to help with more of the experience side playing at this level.”
Terekhova was a weapon for the Cougars last year, totalling 89 kills in 91 sets. Gibbs saw a little less time, playing in 24 sets with 14 kills. The two have been through the grind and hope to share their wisdom.
Some of that wisdom includes the work ethic necessary to compete at the high school level. With the early season excitement in the air, it’s tough to get these girls off the court.
“They’re go-getters, these girls are like ‘How long are we practicing? We’re done already? Can we keep going?’ ” Agho said. “They have that mentality where they’re workhorses, they want to get better and they’re super coachable.”
One of those workhorses is junior Mackenzie Demmel. Agho expects her to play middle for the Cougars and believes her height will aid them at the net. She played in 5 sets last year, but expect her to have a breakout season in 2019. According to Agho, the team is full of talented hitters, but getting them the ball will be key.
Alongside Agho will be assistant coach, Lowell Wightman and head junior varsity coaches, Erin and Joe Schmidt. Tricia Grafelman will resume head coaching duties for the C-team, and has also been involved with Niwot’s new boys volleyball program. Last spring, she and the Cougars completed a successful pilot season for the newly sanctioned sport, and Grafelman expects to continue her involvement when the program formally launches in the 2020-21 school year. The Cougars also hired new Niwot math teacher Caitlyn Hughes as an assistant, and Agho is happy to have another staff member in the building on a daily basis.
“I lean on all of my coaching staff actually to help find little cues and hints to help us win a match and figure out what the other team’s doing so we can go out and attack against it,” Agho said.
“I love this age group,” Agho said. “Being able to watch them from their freshman year and mold them and help create successful human beings from high school has just been something that I really really latched onto and enjoy.”
Niwot kicks off its season at home against Centaurus on Sept. 10.