Hardacre impact player in the middle
Elizabeth Hardacre’s dominance on the volleyball court for Kansas Wesleyan is no secret.
She’s averaging 2.57 kills per set on a .371 hit percentage as a middle tackle, the team’s top two. Defensively, her 36 assists and 16 solo blocks lead the team and she was named Kansas Conference Defender of the Week last week.
Ask her why she’s so successful, and Hardacre isn’t shy about thanking those who play on the same side of the net as her, especially her six senior classmates.
“I think the chemistry 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 hand. We know each other’s tendencies, we know what we can do together and we want to keep the momentum going.”
Hardacre and Co. went 9-4 in a triangle in Ottawa on Tuesday where they played non-conference games against Briar Cliff and defending KCAC champion and preseason favorite Ottawa. The Coyotes swept both games and are 11-4 in Friday’s conference opener at Sterling.
It was another part of a tough off-conference program meant to help them prepare for the rigors of KCAC and beyond. KWU was 20-13 (16-8 in the league) in 2021 but lost in the conference tournament quarterfinals 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 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 go as far as we want to go. We have our values like the hunt for diamonds – we would like to have a national (NAIA) ring or a conference ring.”
The Coyotes have played four games in Hastings, Neb. and five on a trip to Florida earlier this month as part of their pre-conference preparations.
“The Hastings games really helped because they were tough games, they were good teams and I felt like we got on pretty well with them,” Hardacre said.
Hardacre, who earned first-team All-KCAC honors last fall, said the mental approach of teams also needs to change.
“We have the talent, but it’s the mind that we have to overcome,” she said. “We are an older team and experienced with each other and with the game, so I think it will be quite interesting here at the end.”
“We had a couple of failures that we can learn from that will pay off later when it comes to games that matter in the conference,” KWU coach Jessica Biegert said. “William Carey in Florida was a really good game; we were right there with them. That’s the mental game that we have to learn from and use later.”
Monson, KCAC Defensive Player of the Year for the past two seasons, graduated in May. Biegert has changed the defense a bit in his absence with Hardacre playing a key role.
“(The loss of Monson) has put more pressure on the block this year to step up without that caliber of libero, but our defense has done a good job of picking up that slack,” Biegert said. “Libby is swinging on balls she doesn’t usually swing on, a few bad sets that she used to send back and now she’s getting through it. And the blocking is still there now. It’s an unorthodox midfielder and it’s is fun to watch.”
KWU opens conference play Friday with a road game at Sterling. The Coyotes will face Hannibal-LaGrange at 10 a.m. and Southwestern at 2 p.m. Saturday in non-conference games 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 that she’s 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 sets her apart. . “