KOKOMO — Heather Hayes describes herself as a “passionate perfectionist.”
An intense desire to succeed in her volleyball career as a player at Frankfort High School, the University of Montevallo and later the University of Indianapolis followed her into her coaching career, where she won eight conference, five sectional and one regional titles at Frankfort by persuading her players to buy into an intense attention to the details.
Just 21 matches into her collegiate coaching career, Hayes’ reliance on those same principles has Indiana University Kokomo’s fledgling program off to a remarkable start in just its third year of existence. The Cougars entered the week with a 17-4 record, boasting several players who are ranking near the top of the NAIA statistical rankings.
Not bad for a squad that finished 9-25 last season. Hayes looked at .500 as a reasonable goal for this year.
“It’s been extremely exciting and I just couldn’t be more happy and more proud of the girls, because it’s very difficult to walk in and help build a program and be patient,” Hayes said. “And, sometimes those girls who initially start the program aren’t the ones who get to experience the initial stages of success. I’m very excited that, not only have they had to take the bumps and hits by starting the program, but they’re also able to see the rewards of their hard work before they graduate.”
The attention to detail has been evident in the statistics as the team has racked up victories. Hayes said teams typically score 15 points by their own doing in any given set. Those other 10 points come from the mistakes opposing teams make. Her goal has been to reduce that number by half for the Cougars, and the results have been staggering. The squad ranks in the top 50 nationally in seven different categories, including fourth in service aces (161), eighth in total kills (939), ninth in assists (846), 20th in digs (1,115), 27th in blocks (133.5), 29th in aces per game (1.96) and 49th in hitting percentage (.212).