The subject of enrollment popped up as Colfax players chatted with Kamiakin parents at the recent Linda Sheridan Volleyball Classic.
“They asked us how many kids are in our school,” Colfax senior outside hitter Amara Huber said. “I said, ‘We have less than 200,’ and they said, ‘Oh, we have more than that per grade.’ ”
For every achievement coach Sue Doering has conjured up at Colfax since 1988, the one that may top them all is how the Class 2B Bulldogs consistently defeat premium teams up to the 4A level.
Last year, when the Bulldogs finished 36-1 on the way to their seventh state title in 10 years, they defeated Central Valley, University, Shadle Park, Kamiakin, Pullman and Colville. This year, Colfax is 23-2, including wins over Gonzaga Prep, Mt. Spokane and Shadle.
Bigger schools may have little to gain and everything to lose by scheduling Colfax, but they keep playing the Bulldogs for one good reason.
“At first, they probably don’t think much (about us) because we’re just a little 2B school, but then when we come out, they’re kind of like, ‘Oh, we kind of have some competition here,’ ” Bulldogs senior setter Kori Goodwin said. “I think it’s good for them, too.”
“A lot of times that’s our season highlight, playing Mt. Spokane or playing Gonzaga Prep, and that becomes one of our main goals that year,” senior middle hitter Kindra Kneale said.
Colfax has developed into a program that can stand toe-to-toe with any area schools through a mixture of Doering’s teaching abilities and the attributes of the community itself.
Doering pulled off a similar deed during four seasons (1984-87) at Deer Park, turning a program with a lifetime record of 4-98 into a state placer within one year.
Although she probably could have built a program in any town, Doering knew she had the perfect ingredients in Colfax: supportive parents and girls who are groomed to play from a young age.
“It’s not just the players, it’s everyone involved,” Huber said. “So I think it would be hard to replicate a system like we have here in Colfax. But Sue is such an amazing coach that I think she could start any program from the bottom and work it all the way to the top.”
“We have parents who have been state champions who know what it takes, so they’re willing to help their kids go places that they need to go,” Doering said.
“At Colfax, there’s no cut policy,” junior OH Olivia Mellor said. “The cut policy is so foreign because if you show up, you’re on the team. And that’s the nice thing about Colfax: You can take a mediocre girl and make her great because of Sue and the coaching and what we do.”
Doering has other positives at her disposal. She teaches physical education at the elementary school, allowing her to impart skills to kids of all athletic abilities. She also coaches Colfax’s middle school volleyball, meaning her players have mastered her style by the time they reach the varsity level.
“We don’t just show up for the season,” said Mellor, who was also part of Colfax’s state championship basketball and track and field teams last season. “We put in the hours over the summer, playing summer league. It’s just dedication that makes Colfax great.”
When it comes to the Colfax style, Doering emphasizes serving, passing and digging up anything the opposition sends the Bulldogs’ way.
“I think serving and passing, that’s always the emphasis every year,” said Kneale, whose mother, Shawna Gunn, played on Doering’s first Colfax team, a state champion. “If you’re a good serving team and a good passing team, the rest just follows.”
“I think people that play us know we’re going to get everything up that we can,” Doering said. “Generally by the end of the season we serve tough, we’re pretty good passers and our defense is wall-to-wall.”
While any coach would like a bevy of 6-foot-1 hitters in the arsenal, Doering has proven she can win without heavy offensive firepower.
“Your program carries you through those times when you’re fairly dry (with elite athletes),” Doering said. “Personally, I only need three good athletes a year, and I generally have three good athletes a year.”
“We always try to be better with every play,” Goodwin said. “We don’t focus on the whole game. We focus on every play.”
Doering, 56, is 10 years out from her fight against breast cancer. Having Mellor’s father as her doctor reminds her of the benefits of living in a tight-knit town such as Colfax.
“It’s a great community,” Doering said. “I’ve had so much support over the years. … That makes you stay.”
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