If you want a fierce competitor on the volleyball court, look no further than the 5-foot-7 outside hitter at Sky View.
She does not like losing and is willing to do whatever is asked of her to help her side come out on top. To say she takes the court with a chip on her shoulder may be a bit of an understatement. This Bobcat junior comes to play.
Haley McUne does not waste time thinking about her size or whether opponents are overlooking her. The daughter of Scott and Treva McUne doesn’t worry or even take time to listen what opposing teams may be saying. That’s because she is concentrating on the next play, whether that be digging, serving, passing or hitting the ball.
“I don’t know what people think,” McUne said. “I have heard people say how well-rounded I am, but I’m really not sure what people think of me when they first see me. They probably think she is a libero because I’m short.”
When discussing her height, McUne doesn’t shy away from it.
“I’m pretty short,” she said and then makes a joke. “It depends on the shoes.”
McUne laughs and pokes fun at her size, but there is no denying her ability to jump and hit the ball, even if she is three-to-five inches shorter than the typical outside hitter.
“Haley has such a competitive passion for the game,” SV head coach Sheila Sorensen said. “She can read the offense and defense so well and knows where to be to make the play.”
“I hate losing, but the thing I hate most of all is when we don’t try,” McUne said. “We lost to Copper Hills, but they are an amazing team. I didn’t feel bad at all. We tried our best and had some moments, but you have them in every game. We tried our absolute best. As long as we try as hard as we possibly can, I don’t care if we lose.”
In the ultra-competitive Region 11, there were some tough matches. McUne stood out and was a big part of the reason Sky View was able to rally the second part of the league season and finished tied with Green Canyon for the region title. The Wolves did go on to win the 4A state title, while the Bobcats finished third. Mountain Crest was sixth, while Ridgeline finished seventh at state.
The Wolves, Bobcats and Mustangs won at least 20 matches, while the Riverhawks were one win away with 19. North of the border, Preston finished with a winning record.
It was a great year for high school volleyball in the valley, which made it tough to single out a player. However, McUne stood a little taller than anyone else — pun intended — and that is why she is the 2019 Herald Journal All-Valley Player of the Year. She is the eighth straight Bobcat to pick up the award.
While the teenager from Amalga loves to get out on the court and compete, being in the spotlight is a little harder.
“Can you secretly give it to me,” McUne said when asked about receiving awards. “I don’t handle it well. It’s hard accepting, because I know without other people, I would have not gotten that award. I would like to share it.”
McUne has very few weaknesses, even though she quickly points out that blocking and “definitely passing” need to get better, and then she points out consistent serving. Her strength?
“My competitiveness, just how much I want it,” McUne said.
And she wants to be able to do everything well. The Bobcat junior is well on her way as she led the region in kills with 380 — fourth in the state among 4A schools — was third in hitting percentage at .247, third in digs with 297, ninth in assists — the first non-setter on the list — 10th in aces with 44 and 10th in blocks with 41.
Which statistic is she most proud of?
“I’m proud of all of them,” McUne said with a laugh. “I like the digs the most. When you get an amazing dig, that’s a huge momentum turn for your team. It just makes everyone excited. It’s fun to get down and dirty.”
It shouldn’t be a surprise that she can’t single out one area that brings her the most joy.
“I just like the feeling of working hard and feeling like you are accomplishing something,” McUne said. “When you dig something up and you don’t know how you got that or when you get a really good kill ... it feels great. I am not very good at blocking, so whenever I get a block, I get really excited. I love getting assists too because that’s not normal for someone who is not the setter to get an assist. It’s just the feeling of working as hard as you can.”
Which is why Sorensen has enjoyed coaching her. McUne joined the Bobcats last season as a sophomore after spending her freshman season at Green Canyon, where she earned All-Valley honorable mention accolades as a libero. Last year at Sky View, McUne was named to the All-Valley second team as an outside hitter and played a vital role on the Bobcats winning a state championship.
“Haley is such an all-around good player,” Sorensen said. “She does whatever is needed to get to a dig, then hustles to get a kill. Haley has been so fun to coach and watch her take on new challenges and succeed. She works hard at everything you ask her to do.”
Sorensen is the one who decided to have McUne try hitting. She had been a setter and libero, and played a little middle blocker on a club team. Having played those positions prior to moving to outside hitter has obviously helped her become a well-rounded player and stuff the stat sheet.
“Eye-opening,” McUne said of becoming a hitter.
Her older sister, Ashlee, was a first-team all-state and all-valley setter, and part of the Sky View team that won state in 2018. McUne was wanting to follow in her footsteps and was a setter until high school. In order to play varsity as a freshman, she moved to libero.
“Then Sheila (Sorensen) made me an outside hitter,” McUne said. “She said, ‘come play outside.’ So I said, ‘OK, why not.’
“It opens your eyes. When you are a setter and you set the ball up and the hitter hits and you are like, ‘what the heck? I set that up for you. Why didn’t you go get it?’ When you become a hitter, this is way harder than it looks. ... I get it. Every position is hard. You have struggles at all of them.”
One big reason her coach recruited her to play outside hitter was because of her vertical jumping ability. McUne may call herself short, but she has springs in her legs. She credits another sport with helping her develop that ability.
“I didn’t really know how to jump until after freshman year,” McUne said. “I decided to pick up swimming, and they did a lot of vertical workouts because they want you to push off the wall really hard. I got a big increase in vertical there. The next year I jumped a lot higher, then it was a lot easier to hit the ball.
“... I would say swimming was one of the main reasons why and our IHC program that we have at Green Canyon and Sky View. The weight room helps a lot with speed and agility training. Swimming is exhausting. We would do a lot of dry land training, running, stairs, lots of pushups, which helped with me hitting harder.”
McUne, who also competes on the track team — running the 100-meter dash, competing in the long jump and throwing the javelin — isn’t swimming this year. She would like to high jump and possibly do the hurdles this spring during the track season. Growing up she played soccer and basketball, danced and was a competitive tumbler for four years
Sky View returned just two starters from the state title team in ’18 and had just two seniors on the squad. McUne said the summer tournaments went well, which gave them hope, even though a lot of schools thought this would be a down year for the Bobcats.
“We were doing well at the beginning of the season, then hit a few bumps in the road, got a little bumpy,” McUne said. “Then some games went in the direction we didn’t want them to. ... If we were going to have any shot, we needed to stick together. We realized that after the first half of region that we can still win region. We went and had some incredible and stressful moments, but we did it.”
In the final match of the regular season, the Bobcats rallied from two sets down to Green Canyon to win in five and share the region title with the Wolves. McUne had the final kill and finished with more than 20 kills and 20 digs in the match.
“That was more stressful than when we won the state championship last year,” McUne said. “I knew people from both sides, and it was so loud. Oh my goodness, it was fun.”
McUne has been playing competitive volleyball since the age of 8. She comes from a volleyball family as her mother played at Boise State and was the head coach at Preston High for a while. Both of her parents have coached at the club level. There are seven children in the family.
“We breath volleyball,” McUne said. “It was a rough start when I was little. When I was younger, I was very, very, very ultra-competitive person. ... I would get mad when losing, couldn’t handle losing. I learned to calm that down.”
The 16-year-old has certainly learned to be thankful and grateful as she credited many for helping her get to where she is right now.
“There has just been a lot of people help me along the way,” McUne said. “My parents have. My dad would hit at me when we had extra time and sometimes he will go set me. I wouldn’t have got good stats if we didn’t have the rest of the team. Sheila (Sorensen) helps me out a lot because I’m still trying to figure out how to hit. I’m still working on it. A lot of people have helped me play volleyball.”
That’s a scary thought. Just how good will she be as a senior?
The future is bright for the 5-7 junior. Colleges are taking notice and there are already two offers. She wants to play volleyball in college.
Southern Utah wants her as a libero, while Utah State Eastern has offered her to come play outside hitter.
That will have to wait. She wants to help the Bobcats make another run in 2020.
NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR
ELLA DOUGLASS, SO., MC
Sometimes middle blockers get overlooked, but not this Mustang.
Douglass made an immediate impact at Mountain Crest. In fact, the sophomore ended up with the best hitting percentage in all of 4A in the state of Utah at .291.
She also led the region by a wide margin and was second in the state among 4A schools in solo blocks with 65.
“She is a very consistent player and did such a great job at the net for us,” MC head coach Kindra Anderson said. “I can confidently say that she is the best middle blocker not only in our region but in the entire 4A. Middle blockers don’t always get recognized for all that they do because they usually are not leading teams in kills.”
Douglass did have 143 kills and 22 aces after serving at 91 percent. Anderson praised Douglass for being a diverse hitter and consistently putting up a big block.
“Only being a sophomore, she could be intimidated by older and more experienced players, but she looks at it as a challenge and holds her own,” Anderson said. “As a server, she always went back and served tough. There were several times throughout our season that she would get runs of points with several aces in there that turned games around for us, or just helped us gain momentum.”