Although she’s a third-year starting volleyball player at Gonzaga Prep, Liz Hardan is plowing new ground as both the setter and, at times, as a hitter.
“I get to do both and it’s exciting because I’ve never been a hitter before,” Hardan said before quickly recanting. “I started out as a right side in U-12. Does that count?”
Probably not, since she has otherwise set exclusively from sixth grade on, including the past three seasons at G-Prep.
The transition from setter to setter/hitter this year was made for several reasons. G-Prep had graduated eight veterans and a strong front row from its third-place state finishers.
But with a new and smaller lineup, coach Lisa Phillips was looking to innovate.
“Except for last year we’ve never had big hitters, and I try to find other advantages,” she said.
Having junior setter/defensive specialist Megan Higgins and the knowledge that Hardan always showed an ability to hit, provided impetus for the new look.
It is partly for deception to keep defenses guessing, and because Hardan is one of this year’s taller players at 5-foot-7.
“Liz was one of our strongest hitters on the right side,” said Phillips. “In the past I’d been wanting to use that, but didn’t incorporate it.”
When Higgins is in back row and Hardan is up front, either can set, freeing Hardan to attack.
This year Hardan leads in assists and has been kills leader three times for the Bullpups, although Phillips is quick to point out that many of those are dump shots when Hardan is setting.
“I think she’s perfected that,” said Phillips.
Hardan became a setter in club ball because no one on her team knew how. She’s worked since with setter coach Scott Davis to hone her craft. Phillips recognized her potential as a freshman.
This year G-Prep is in transition, with just four returnees from its state-placing team. But with Hardan setting – and hitting – the Bullpups are near another district playoff berth.
“The reason I like setting,” she said, “is that someone once told me a setter gets the ball three times more than anyone else on the court.”
In her combination role, the percentage is probably greater.