Lady Dragons sophomore part of a ‘first’ in U.S. beach volleyball

07/14/2014 3:30 PM

07/14/2014 3:31 PM

Life can be tough as an athlete. You work diligently on your craft for hours that turn into days. Frustration is offset by persistence.

Then you must suffer by playing your first International beach volleyball tournament in the resort location of Acapulco, Mexico.

Tongue in cheek aside, Carroll sophomore Haley Hallgren has a great opportunity this week. She and three others will represent the United States at the FIVB Beach Volleyball U17 World Championships this week. The event features 36 counties.

This is the first time a U.S. U17 team has ever competed at the international level. Hallgren had been preparing for the event in Hermosa Beach, Calif.

That’s perfect, because Hallgren spent her early years in California before moving to Texas. This is her fifth summer to play in the sand. She also played for the U.S. U15 team. Hallgren is one of 10 players who are on the team. However, the U.S. could only bring four.

There is a catch to the tournament. Teams could not bring an alternate. An injury could mean forfeit.

“One of the big things about beach volleyball is that you’re on the court the whole time,” Hallgren said. “You’re not on the sideline. I like the fact that you have to do it by yourself. You have to figure it out. You don’t have a coach there. You and your teammate have each other.”

At 6-1, Hallgren represents the new kind of player the game of volleyball is producing. When she began her career playing at a higher age level, she played libero and offered the skills to stay there.

Then a funny thing happened. She grew. A lot.

When someone reaches the 6-0 mark, that usually means playing the front line at either right side, outside hitter of middle blocker. In Hallgren’s case, it was anything but that.

There’s probably a pretty good chance she will be all over the court for Carroll this fall, mixing front row and acting as the team’s setter. Head coach Ryan Mitchell has choices. With a tall setter, teams can play a 5-1 and feel comfortable having them play the front row. Hallgren can thank the beach for that.

“She’s just a complete and versatile player, and her beach game is the reason,” Mitchell said. “Sometimes on the court you can hide with your teammates. But Haley is a gifted athlete that possesses ball control, the ability to hit hard but is also a talented setter. Her beach game has helped her tremendously in developing all areas.”

Of course, this could be a prelude to the future. Hallgren appears to have what it takes to play at the Division I collegiate level. She already holds offers from Tulane, TCU, Texas Tech and Florida State. More offers are certain to come.

The payoff would be playing beach volleyball the Summer Olympics in say, maybe 2020? It’s a sport that usually gravitates toward older players. Hallgren’s timing could change the trend.

“I’m just really comfortable with the sand because I’ve been doing it for so long,” Hallgren said. “The great thing is that when I get back on the hard court, my defense is so much better and I’m quicker. I love playing.”

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