Lo Hunter was a force of nature.
The woman who coached the Evergreen volleyball team to nine state championships from 1976 to 1985 was ahead of her time, according to some of her players, as she fought for girls high school sports and instilled a winning attitude in her players.
“She had an insight into how to win and how to push athletes harder that other women coaches or men coaches who coached women’s sports didn’t have,” said Sarah Ross Sweeney, a 1983 EHS graduate.
Laurice Joan “Lo” Hunter died Feb. 25 at the age of 89. The youngest of 12 children, she taught in Kansas and Texas before moving to Colorado, teaching physical education and coaching at Evergreen High School from 1971 until she retired in 1995. In addition to volleyball, she coached gymnastics, tennis, track, basketball and golf during her 23-year career at EHS.
The multi-time Hall of Famer coached EHS volleyball to a 503-83 record, which included 16 state tournament appearances, a national record 182 consecutive victories from 1978 to 1984, seven undefeated seasons and one 1984 campaign in which the Cougars didn’t drop a game, much less a match.
The 1979 state championship volleyball team was inducted into the Colorado High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame in 2013, and in 2014, EHS named its gymnasium after Hunter, with the celebration including a tribute from about 50 of her former players.
“It was so emotional for me because I didn’t do this. The athletes did it,” Hunter said in 2014 of the celebration. “They just respected each other. They had confidence in each other. They were not going to go home defeated. And they put Evergreen High School on the map just by Evergreen volleyball. That’s what I’m happy about.”
Tanya Haave, a 1980 EHS graduate, said Hunter’s passion was coaching and helping young women.
“All the lives she’s touched and the women she’s empowered reaches far and wide,” said Haave, who went on to play basketball professionally in Europe and is now the MSU Denver women’s basketball coach. Haave and Hunter remained friends, with Hunter traveling to Europe to watch Haave play basketball and attending MSU Denver games, still coaching a bit from the stands.
Sweeney explained the secret to Hunter’s success as a coach: “I think she pushed us to the point where we had little fear because there were so many repetitions at practice, so by the time we were in a game situation, we were not fearful of a hotshot server because we’ve already seen it all.”
Sweeney also said the Cougars were intimidating in the early 1980s with tall players, and the team had a warmup regimen that made other teams look twice.
“I admired her for what she did for us,” Haave said. “She was not a delicate flower. She would scare the pants off the refs. If they made a call against us, she would give them hell. She was awesome.”
According to Sweeney and Haave, Hunter always had perfectly manicured fingernails, she drove a lavender Cadillac, and she wasn’t the best driver. Haave called Hunter a diamond in the rough. Her coaching style wasn’t for everyone, but many thrived under her tutelage.
Sweeney said that as the state-championship streak continued, every game was like the championship because no player wanted to be that person to end the legacy.
“Nobody wanted to be the team to lose and break the streak,” Sweeney said. “It was serious.”
Both Sweeney and Haave are grateful for everything Hunter did for them personally and on the court.
“She was so ahead of the game in terms of how she coached,” Sweeney explained. “She figured things out a lot quicker than other coaches. So many people learned from her and duplicated what she did. She was really a pioneer in that kind of tough coach and tough love way of coaching.”