|Bradshaw Mountain High’s new volleyball head coach Natali Washburn talks to her team during a timeout.|
Now midway through the season, Bradshaw Mountain's new volleyball head coach, Natali Washburn, realizes her Lady Bears will have to step it up to be successful as they head into Division II sectional play this week. Bradshaw is 3-4 in regular competition and 4-12 at tournaments.
Heading into yesterday's game Washburn told her team that the night's opponent, Barry Goldwater High, was 4-3.
"Kylie (Morris, senior co-captain), said, 'let's make it 4-4 for both teams,' and that's what I wanted to hear," Washburn said. "Kylie and Kirsten Smith (co-captain) are very good team leaders."
She noted her Lady Bears have suffered a lot of close losses, but that other dropped games should have been closer.
"They do understand that I have high expectations, especially with six seniors on the team," she said. "We're improving a bit everywhere every match. It's exciting that multiple girls can play multiple positions. I can switch it up as I'm looking for the best mix of six players on the floor at any one time."
Arizona native Washburn, 32, graduated from Scottsdale Horizon High School and also from Arizona State University. While still a college student, she coached JV volleyball with her younger sister and student-taught at Phoenix Pinnacle.
Washburn's first full-time coaching experience came at powerhouse Horizon High where she served as JV head coach, then as varsity assistant to Val McKenzie, for whom she played in the 1990s. Horizon has three state titles in the past four years - one at the Division I level before the school was designated D-II.
"She's an amazing coach. She's constantly learning so as not to become stagnant," Washburn said. "Her philosophy is: 'if it ain't working, let's fix it.'"
Washburn took a break from coaching her first year at Bradshaw, where she teaches sophomore geometry and this year also heads a pilot geometry bridge program for freshmen who took Algebra I in middle school.
"It's a super speed algebra concepts review in the first quarter," she explained. "Then if they pass, they stay in my class and get both algebra and geometry. Students then can have geometry in three quarters, like we did at Horizon. If this one class works this year, we will use it on all freshman next year."
She also teaches college math to Bradshaw students through Yavapai College's dual enrollment program.
She is married to Zac Washburn, another athlete who played soccer for the 18s national team and also in college until sidelined by injury. Now he helps alleviate injury and illness in others as a paramedic for Lifeline Ambulance.
In her second year at Bradshaw, Washburn accepted the volleyball reins from current softball coach Janet Jensen, who coached volleyball for a single season in 2012.
She has 13 girls on the team this season, more than she ever has had on a varsity team, Washburn said.
"I'm used to keeping 10 or 12, but I really enjoy this group. It's a large senior class but their personalities are just awesome. They really like and get along with each other. I'm really enjoying this team and I'm very proud of them."
Bradshaw played Goldwater after the Tribune's press time. The Lady Bears travel to Dysart tomorrow, and will host Sunrise Mountain on Tuesday at 6 p.m.