Sep 14, 2022

Coyote Corner: Hardacre impact player in the middle

Posted Sep 14, 2022 5:05 PM
<b>Elizabeth Hardacre.</b> Photo courtesy <a href=""></a>
Elizabeth Hardacre. Photo courtesy

KWU Athletics

Elizabeth Hardacre's dominance on the volleyball court for Kansas Wesleyan is no secret.

She averages 2.57 kills per set on a sizzling .371 hitting percentage as a middle blocker, both tops on the team. Defensively her 36 block assists and 16 solo blocks lead the squad and she was named the Kansas Conference's Defender of the Week last week.

Ask her why she's so successful and Hardacre is quick to credit those who play on the same side of the net she does, particularly her six senior classmates.

"I think the chemistry that we have is a big part of the reason," she said. "We've been playing together for four years and we know each other like the back of our hands. We know each other's tendencies; we know what we can do together and want to keep the momentum going."

Hardacre and Co. took a 9-4 record into a triangular at Ottawa on Tuesday where they played non-conference matches against Briar Cliff and defending KCAC champion and preseason favorite Ottawa. The Coyotes swept both matches and take an 11-4 record into Friday's conference opener at Sterling.

It was another part of a challenging non-conference schedule intended to help prepare them for the rigors of the KCAC and beyond. KWU was 20-13 (16-8 in league play) in 2021 but lost in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament for the third consecutive season.

"Last year was pretty disappointing in my opinion just because we had the best libero (Emily Monson) in the conference – she was an All-American," Hardacre said. "We all thought that last year was going to be our last chance but coming back this year I think we're stronger than we've ever been before.

"I hope we do everything we can to get as far as we want to go. We have our values like chasing diamonds – we would love to have a national (NAIA) ring or a conference ring."

The Coyotes played four games in Hastings, Neb. and five during a trip to Florida earlier this month in their pre-conference preparations.

"The Hastings games really helped because those were tough games, those were good teams and I felt like we hung with them pretty well," Hardacre said.

Hardacre, who earned First Team All-KCAC honors last fall, said the teams' mental approach must change as well.

"We have the talent but it's the mental stuff that we've got to get past," she said. "We're an older team and experienced with each other and with the game so I think it will be pretty interesting here at the end."

"We've had a couple of fails that we can learn from that will pay off for us later when it comes to the games that matter in conference," KWU coach Jessica Biegert said. "William Carey in Florida was a real good matchup; we were right there even with them. That's the mental game that we need to learn from and use later."

Monson, the KCAC's Defensive Player of the Year the last two seasons, graduated in May. Biegert has altered the defense a bit in her absence with Hardacre playing a key role.

"(Losing Monson) put more pressure on the block this year to step up without that caliber of a libero but our defense has done a good job of taking up that slack," Biegert said. "Libby's swinging at balls she doesn't usually swing at, some bad sets she'd usually tip out and now she's swinging out of it. And the blocking is always there now. She's an unorthodox middle and it's fun to see."

KWU opens conference play Friday with a road game at Sterling. The Coyotes play Hannibal-LaGrange at 10 a.m. and Southwestern at 2 p.m. Saturday in non-conference matches in the Coyote Triangular inside Mabee Arena.

Hardacre will be in the middle of everything they do, literally and figuratively.

"What's special about Libby is she's and an offensive and defensive threat," Biegert said. "Usually, you'll see players being one or the other – they're a good hitter but not a good blocker, they're a good blocker but not a good hitter. Libby is both and that's what makes her stand out."