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The total package: Wheeler's Haley Weiland among best in the state in attacking

The total package: Wheeler's Haley Weiland among best in the state in attacking

  • Updated

VALPARAISO — TR Harlan barely recognized Haley Weiland when she walked on the Wheeler volleyball court for summer workouts in July.

It wasn’t that Harlan was thrown off by Weiland’s green hair, an impulse decision the Wheeler senior said she did while in quarantine. For Harlan, he didn’t recognize the player that came out of quarantine. Where Weiland was once just a softball player who played volleyball for fun, the outside hitter had transformed into a real player on the court.

“It was like a completely different kid came back to us in July,” Harlan said. “Last year she was just an athlete that played volleyball.”

Weiland played volleyball when she was younger, but originally decided not to play in high school. She returned to the sport as a sophomore and last year she found herself playing behind seven seniors. While she earned plenty of playing time as a junior, racking up 184 kills in the process, Weiland spent much of the year in her own head.

“Last year was really just me stressing about everything,” Weiland said. “I was worried about being in the right spots and if I was doing everything correctly. At some point this year it just came together.”

Harlan saw the maturation immediately in summer workouts and he devised a strategy which featured Weiland as his prominent hitter. Figuring she was fresh after the spring softball season was canceled due to COVID-19, Harlan told Weiland to expect to hit the ball early and often.

“She’s not just the glass or the straw or the ice, Haley is the entire drink that is our offense,” Harlan said. “The thing is, she’s earned it. Her teammates trust her and they get her the ball.”

The numbers have been astounding. Weiland leads the Bearcats with 235 kills, a number that is currently good for fifth in the state. She ranks second in the state with 707 swings, with nearly 500 more than the next highest on Wheeler. Weiland also leads the Bearcats with 265 digs.

“It means a lot to have that many kills, but it also means a lot that I get set by my teammates so much,” Weiland said. “It’s been a lot of fun, especially considering I wasn’t that good last year.”

The biggest improvement Harlan saw this year was how Weiland approached hitting the ball. The pair spent a lot of time in the summer and into fall workouts discussing the right ways to approach the ball and the force in which the ball should be hit. Weiland took the information and has delivered the results.

“Last year, she just wanted to hit every ball really hard,” Harlan said. “Now when she swings, she only hits the ball at about 85 or 90 percent. When you watch a Purdue or Penn State game on (Big Ten Network), maybe two or three times per game are those players hitting it as hard as they can. Now she’s hitting her spots and she’s hitting them all over the court. It’s been very impressive.”

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Paul Oren has been a correspondent reporter for The Times since 2005. A member of the United States Basketball Writers Association, Paul has spent more than 15 years covering Valparaiso basketball.

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