Volleyball: Coach Pam Bergeland has Pumas reaching new heights

Peak to Peak volleyball coach Pam Bergeland instructs her players during practice on Wednesday afternoon.

LAFAYETTE — When Pam Bergeland relinquished her duties as a high school volleyball coach a few years ago in order to spend more time with her ailing father, she had no clue when, or even if, she would rejoin the high school scene.

After Bergeland made her break from Monarch High School following the 2009 season, her coaching future was entirely up in the air. She never imagined that within just a few short years, she would be leading a sudden and stunning resurgence at Peak to Peak.

Despite a four-game loss against Lutheran on Tuesday, Bergeland has the Pumas rolling in her second year at the helm. Off to the program’s best start ever (8-2), the Pumas are hoping Bergeland’s steady influence can lead them to their first appearance in the Class 3A state tournament.

Bergeland took over the Peak to Peak program last fall from Tom Sullivan who, coincidentally, assumed the Monarch job from Enhui Chu this season after a year off from coaching.

“When my father got real sick I was flying back and forth from Houston all the time,” said Bergeland, whose father ultimately passed away due to pancreatic cancer in May of 2010. “It really became impossible to run a program that way. There were times when the (Monarch) girls didn’t know if I was going to be there on certain weekends. It just wasn’t fair to the girls. And it was more important to be with my father in his last days.

“When this job came up, a couple of friends emailed and said I should check it out. I feel very fortunate to have this job. It has really worked out more than I could have imagined.”

Peak to Peak went 5-14 last season during Bergeland’s first year at the helm, but this year her influence has clearly been more pronounced.

As is the case with most teams in the second season under a new coach, Peak to Peak has benefited greatly from having a higher comfort level with Bergeland’s system and expectations. However, Bergeland also has made some key strategic tweaks this season that have paid off remarkably well.

Last year, Amy Haberthier thrived as Peak to Peak’s primary setter, leading the team with an average of 4.3 assists per game (262 overall). Yet Bergeland believed Haberthier could fill a void this season at outside hitter, a position the senior has played extensively with her club team. Plus, Bergeland was confident the Pumas had a more than serviceable setter waiting in the wings in Jordan Powley.

The switch has ignited much of the Pumas’ early success. Haberthier has recorded a team-leading 81 kills (2.5 per game) while Powley has slid seamlessly into the setter’s role. The sophomore already has nearly surpassed Haberthier’s assist total from last season, posting 243 through Peak to Peak’s first 10 matches.

“It has worked out great and the team has taken to the switch nicely,” Haberthier said. “We needed to be stronger on offense, and our new setter is doing really well in the role. The key for us it to stay positive and keep going with the momentum we have. (Bergeland) is motivating us a lot and has been a huge part of our success. We want to be that first team to go to state.”

The Pumas debuted this week in the Denver Post’s weekly coaches poll at No. 10, yet even Bergeland admits the team’s early slate hardly was riddled with world-beaters. That will change as the Pumas dive deeper into their Metro League slate.

Tuesday’s loss against Lutheran, ranked second in Class 2A, should provide a preview for the competition the Pumas will face the rest of the way. The demanding league schedule includes games against Bishop Machebeuf (ranked eighth in 3A), 2011 3A state runner-up Colorado Academy, perennially pesky Faith Christian and the always-tough Holy Family Tigers.

“We’ve really been playing for each other, and when you get that camaraderie together on the floor, that is something that is really great to see,” Bergeland said. “There’s a lot of excitement here, but we realize there is a lot of work and a long way still to go.”

Follow Pat Rooney on Twitter: @prooney07