This week’s guest is one of the most well-liked girls on the McKinney North volleyball team and is in the middle of having a breakout season built around her renewed confidence.
Please kick back and enjoy the McKinney Courier-Gazette’s Sunday Spotlight Conversation with North junior Hallie Collett.
What has been the biggest difference for you between this season and last season?
Collett: We have higher expectations as a team this year. Last year, we were trying to break the playoff drought, and this year, the expectations are not to just make the playoffs but win in the playoffs.
We are also a much younger team than last year, because we graduated nine seniors, so this year it is not uncommon for us to have a combination of freshmen and sophomores on the court making huge contributions.
We are growing together and learning how to win in big games, and although that can take a little time because we have not played together that long, I know we are building something that has a chance to be very special.
How much confidence does it give you that head coach Libby Rodriguez and her staff believe in you and your talents?
Collett: Having a coach and a coaching staff that believes in me is a huge boost and something that I don’t take for granted, because I have not always had that. I personally take things pretty hard when I don’t play well and we lose a match, because I know I could have done more for my teammates.
It helps to have coaches around you that help you have the short-term memory necessary to move on and get better or learn from your mistakes. There was a tournament game earlier this year where I played poorly, and coach Rodriguez looked at me and said, “I am not taking you out, so figure it out.”
In order for us to grow and win in the future, trusting me to work through the issues meant so much to me at that moment.
Who is your best friend on the team and what make your friendship so special?
Collett: My best friend on the team is Reagan Esparza. She is a senior this year, which is why we are trying to make the most of the time we have together this season.
We have been friends ever since I was in sixth grade and she was in seventh grade, and we live down the street from each other. We’ve also played school or club volleyball off and on over the past four to five years.
Reagan is hilarious, one of the funniest people I have ever been around. She helps me relax and laugh, and more than anything else she brings out the best side of me. Our relationship is special, because she is honest with me and just tells me how she feels about something, including how I am playing.
We have so many funny memories on and off the court and laughing about some of those memories is an everyday occurrence for us. It will be a big change next year for me because I will miss her on the court, and her sense of humor off the court.
What did you learn being a part of last season’s playoff team which is helping you this season?
Collett: We start the season two to three weeks before school starts and we end up playing 40-plus games throughout the season, so setting goals, building and growing toward the goals is a process. We had some early-season success this year, which gave us a ton of confidence, and most recently, we have struggled a little bit to finish and win big close games.
So more than anything else, I have learned that we need to stick together, stay focused on the bigger goals, don’t dwell on the short-term losses, keep building trust and figuring out how to get better as a team. All of the experiences that we go through will help us once we start to play important district games.
Do you feel any pressure to deliver for your team in your new, expanded role?
Collett: I do and I am still figuring out how best to control that energy within myself, so I can help the team as we move forward. I am focused right now on helping us start each match with more energy and getting off to a better start.
I also want to raise my level of play and help us calm down in big moments and in big games. What is expected or needed in each match can be very different. Sometimes I can say something to someone that I hope gives them confidence or helps them relax and other times I hope my play and energy bring confidence and energy to the rest of the team.
Overall, I think it is healthy and common to feel pressure, especially when you have a team that has as much potential as this one.
Describe the positive impact coach Rodriguez has had on you and your teammates this season.
Collett: I always want to play for coaches that have trust in my abilities but will also be hard on me and honest with me when I need to play better. Coach Rodriguez has been those things for me, and I expect our relationship to continue to grow as we move forward.
She has brought a very positive energy and approach to the team. She cares about us as much off the court as she does on the court.
As I mentioned, we are young and have only been playing together for about a month now, so allowing us to grow and be patient has been a rewarding experience for all of us. When she is coaching me or the rest of the team, we genuinely understand that she wants us to get better and succeed.
She has also brought higher expectations and raised the bar for the program. Our tryouts and practices have been much more intense and now winning is the expectation not the goal anymore.
What makes being part of the Lady Bulldogs’ volleyball program so special?
Collett: We spend so much time together at practice, in games and at tournaments, that you become a family. I genuinely enjoy spending time with the team and seeing my teammates in the hallways between classes, and then working hard with them each afternoon at practice.
I know each one of my teammates has my back, and that we are in this together. For me, personally knowing that I get to play a role with this talented group this season and next has me very excited.