Middle blockers should live by one creed: be ready at any time.
Considering they’re the first and arguably most important line of defense for their volleyball squads, they either can win or lose or sustain rallies based on what they do at the net.
For years, Tessa Harfield has grown into loving the position and become very good at it; so good she will be playing in college. The Northwest senior has committed to Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville and will sign her national letter of intent in November. Harfield also considered UT-Pan American and Mercer.
“The game moves very fast and you have to react to everything or else you’re not going to help your team,” she said. “Volleyball is such a fast-paced game that you have to let your instincts take over.”
Middle blockers also have to have short memories. When they have moments of failure or disappointment from a particular sequence – hitting error, a block that went out of bounds or a mistimed jump for a net clash – they have to put it behind them quickly. It’s almost certain they will get another chance on the ensuing play.
That’s what attracts the 6-1 Harfield to the position even more. This past week, Harfield and her club team competed at the national tournament in Minneapolis. The tournament completed the team’s season before she started preparing for the 2014 high school season. The tournament was expected to conclude Wednesday.
“Middle blocker gets to a point where you almost feel like it is second nature,” she said. “You have to forget what happened when you make mistakes, because that’s what playing the position is all about.”
Harfield could be more of an imposing presence for the Lady Texans this fall because of three inches. All of her offseason training on her vertical jump enabled her to leap those three inches higher. She went from nine feet, nine inches in 2013 to 10 feet this year.
While it’s the length of extending your index finger and thumb by just so, it can make a difference. Middle blockers or outside hitters can hit over the defense. They can get a better sense of where the defense is set up so they can deliver their strikes. They can also defend balls that probably would have been points conceded the previous season.
That’s what new Northwest volleyball coach Amy Gaston is expecting.
“Her experience, physical strength and IQ will be a pivotal point to our success this fall,” Gaston said. “She will be a major key for us offensively and will play a bigger role in all six rotations than she has in the past. Tessa has embraced the new system. Her leadership will encourage her younger teammates to do the same.”
What everybody in the Northwest volleyball family is hoping for is to get over the bi-district playoff struggles. While this program has been a consistent postseason participant, it has failed to get past the first round on numerous occasions. Should the 2014 squad earn a postseason berth, breaking this hex will become the focus.
“Coach Gaston is so enthusiastic about what she wants to do that a lot of us can see that,” Harfield said. “She’s very visual with the way she teaches us. I think my technique and athleticism has improved because of it. It’s helped all of us.”