Following an underwhelming season for the Long Beach State women’s volleyball team, a silver lining was found in the five players who received All-Big West honors in the 2018 Big West Women’s Volleyball All-Conference Team. Senior outside hitter Tyler Spriggs was the only player to receive a first team selection, while junior outside hitter Hailey Harward, senior outside hitter Emma Kirst and junior middle blocker Yizhi Xue received honorable mentions. Freshman outside hitter Kashauna Williams was named to the All-Freshman Team.
While Spriggs and Williams’ had the most impressive of the honors, the most shocking of these selections was Harward’s honorable mention. After making the All-Freshman team her first year and making the First Team last season, an honorable mention is a considerable drop off for Harward, and nowhere near what she deserves.
Harward began the season in her usual position as libero, the one that earned her a spot on the First Team last season, but was moved to outside hitter after a few games in order to compensate for the lack of outside hitters in the team’s rotation. Even while Harward was in the position, the team still had senior outside hitter Megan Kruidhof and freshman outside hitter Allison Martinez who both played little minutes throughout the season.
The position was moved around and experimented with all season, but Harward never returned to her natural position. She still thrived as an outside hitter however, and led the team in digs at 3.39 and was third in conference service aces at 41 to end the season. She was also third on the team in kills per set at 2.11, behind Spriggs and Williams.
Harward was also named the Defensive Player of the Week and passed up her milestone 1000th career dig this season. Although she had some impressive games, her potential impact was wasted on the team as an outside hitter, forcing Harward to work on both sides of the ball and rack up impressive digs and kills. The fact that she was able to make such an impact in an unfamiliar position is commendable, but you can’t help but wonder what might have been if she was able to thrive in her regular position as libero.
The outside hitter gave the program high hopes when she came in as a freshman under former head coach Brian Gimmillaro while she had offers from top schools such as UCLA, Arizona and Pepperdine.
Not only has Long Beach had a lackluster two previous seasons, but Harward also had to play in an unfamiliar position and help the team in any way she could from there.
With more of the young players possibly making a return and multiple recruits already being announced, it will be interesting to see what role Harward will play next season, and how much of a chance she’ll be given to thrive once again.