DALLAS — Having one player sidelined due to injury is tough, but what happens when the entire team is afflicted with injuries?
That’s how it went for the Dallas High School volleyball team this year.
“Someone got injured, like, every week,” said senior Hailey Van Well, “so we only had five days of practice that had everybody back, and that was at the end of the season.”
Instead of letting the string of injuries derail the team, the girls found a way to push through it.
“I think with all those injuries that we had, I think that made us come together more; we had to come together and play well,” Van Well said.
She played a crucial role in helping the team get through this season’s challenges.
“Hailey is someone you can always count on,” said head coach Kayce Lilley. “She chose ‘dependable’ as her word this year, and I think she really embodied that. Since her sophomore year she’s been our go-to hitter anytime the game is on the line or we need to get out of a rut. She’s been a ‘lead by example’ kind of kid for a long time, and this year was no different. From the beginning of summer workouts, she was at everything we had: open gyms, weights, speed and conditioning, summer league games and was even doing extra by helping with middle school open gyms and connecting with the kids who will be coming up in the program. She leaves such big shoes to fill, and I’m really going to miss having her both as an athlete I coach and just as a kid I get to spend time around.”
Van Well, an outside hitter for the Dragons, was chosen as the I-O’s Athlete of the Year for Volleyball and was added to the first team on the All-League conference list.
“It’s cool to see her getting recognized around the league and state, even though we didn’t make it as far into the postseason as we would have liked,” Lilley said. “This season was challenging for us as a team, but Hailey did a great job playing hard and staying committed to our team all the way through. She improved in every statistical area from last year to this year and clearly became more and more confident in her abilities.”
Going into the season, Van Well hoped for a post-season run.
“I hoped to get third in league and make it to playoffs and then go from there,” she said.
The Dragons ended the season ranked 16th in the 5A Mid-Willamette Conference, with an 11-13 overall record and 7-9 league record — a different outcome than last year, when the team took third in league and fifth place overall in state.
“It’s hard to go from two years making it to playoffs and the state tournament and then not making it,” Van Well said.
Dealing with so many injuries was a big factor in why the Dragons didn’t see the state competition this year.
“We had a wide range: torn ACLs, dislocated ankles, lots of hand stuff, thigh problems, my collarbone popped out, it was crazy. But we just played through it,” Van Well said.
Their doubleheader game against Silverton and Central in the beginning of the season is an example of that.
“Our Silverton game, doubleheader, our setter and libero went for a ball and collided and the setter split her head open and had to get like 12 stitches, and they both had concussions, and then we still had another game to play, because it was a doubleheader, and we went in and we beat (Central) in three (sets) without a setter or a libero, which was crazy.”
Laughing, she added, “I’ll definitely remember it. Senior year.”
Of the three years she’s been with the team, the playoff games her sophomore and junior years were some of Van Well’s favorite memories.
“Churchill last year was so crazy,” she said. “We went in with no expectations and we played hard and then we came out winning. Also the Marist game, when we went to playoffs my sophomore year. We were down — we were like 5 and they were 18 — and we came back and won. That was crazy. When I think of volleyball, those are the games I think of.”
Van Well will finish out her senior year by playing club volleyball in Salem as well as participating in track and field in the spring.
She has big plans after she graduates.
“I’ve been touring Southern Oregon University,” she said. “Their volleyball program is awesome; their coach is awesome. I get to practice with the team one more time and then we’ll see what happens.”