Higgins’ move to setter pays off for Central volleyball team

Photo by Gretel Daugherty—Haleigh Higgins, right, tips the ball over the net during Central High School’s semi-final match against Durango in the regional playoffs Saturday.

Haleigh Higgins’ eyes still light up when she gets the chance to go for a kill on the volleyball court.

Her chances are a lot fewer than they were in years past, but she’s all right with that.

“I think (setting) is really fun because I’m involved in every play,” Higgins said.

An outside hitter since she was in sixth grade, Higgins got called into emergency duty for Central High School at the end of last season when the Warriors’ regular setter, Alyce Albright, injured an ankle in practice.

“I had a coach tell me, ‘Go with your best athlete at setter,’ ” Central coach Beth Nelson said earlier this season.

Over the summer, Nelson asked Higgins to make the switch to setter full time for her senior season.

Higgins was more than willing — anything for the team, she reasoned.

It’s a tribute to her overall athletic ability that Higgins was able to make a smooth transition from hitter to setter.

“I think it’s a credit to the sports I play,” said Higgins, a basketball player in the winter and a soccer player in the spring.

In addition to the physical challenge posed as a setter, Nelson said there’s another reason Higgins has been successful.

“It’s such a mental aspect,” Nelson said of focusing on consistently putting the ball on the net for the middle and outside hitters. “It’s exhausting.”

Having been in playoff games in all three sports, Higgins is used to keeping her focus.

Even as a setter, Higgins is fourth on the team this season in kills. Amy Kame and Ashley Wells, the players who benefit the most from Higgins’ passing, lead the team in kills with 270 and 182, respectively.

Higgins is far and away the team leader in assists with 659.

Higgins and her teammates face their biggest challenge of the season this weekend. They’ll travel to Parker to play in the four-team Class 5A Region A tournament at Ponderosa.

The Warriors (21-2) are the ninth seed overall among the 16 teams playing in regional tournaments on Saturday.

There’s some good news and bad news that goes with that seeding.

Their first-round pairing is against the eighth seed, Chaparral (19-4).

Central also plays matches against the No. 1 seed in 5A, Ponderosa (22-1), and against 16th seed Eaglecrest (12-11).

In theory, a team has to win only two matches to earn one of the region’s two state-qualifying berths.

That’s provided the matches go according to seed.

If three teams are tied for first or second after the four-team round robin, then it comes down to tiebreakers among the tied teams.

Central goes into the regional believing it can earn one of the eight state tournament berths.

“(Nelson) said we’re one of 16 teams,” Higgins said of being among the state’s elite with two weekends to go in the season.

Central was one of the tallest teams in the Southwestern League, but the Warriors quickly learned at last week’s District 6 tournament that most of the teams they face from here on our will have a height advantage.

“I think it’s fun playing against those girls because it’s a challenge,” Higgins said.


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