By Mike Deak
WARSAW – Avery Hales might not have much of a voice at her own dinner table, but her work on the volleyball court is gaining national attention.
Coming from a family of collegiate athletes, Hales is a sophomore for the Warsaw volleyball team who is quickly cementing herself among the nation’s elite table setters.
Using MaxPreps as the guide, through Sept. 21 Hales was listed as fourth in the country in total assists with 636. Taking into account the top two on the list, Alabama’s Grace Tapscott (700) and Cali Persaud (650), have played 37 and 34 matches to Warsaw’s 22 (before Tuesday night), Hales is actually closer to second overall, which is Jill Sullivan from Mississippi, and she had 639 assists through 22 recorded matches.
Including what she produced Tuesday night at Fort Wayne Carroll, adding in another 33 assists, she sits at 669, which would theoretically bump her to second in the country. The MaxPreps stats update on Tuesday and Friday mornings.
Hales also stood eighth overall nationally on Tuesday in assists per set with 11.2 on the docket.
“Numbers and stuff like that, you don’t brag about it, but I’m aware of where I am on the list,” Hales said following her match last week against Columbia City where she had 33 assists, seven kills, four aces and four digs. “People have to understand, with assists, I can’t get those without my back row passing, without my front row hitting. All the communication that goes on to score a point, all the training. It’s definitely a team statistic, which is how I prefer to look at it.”
The lineage of Hales’ background isn’t surprising. Both mom, Candace, and dad, Ross, were athletic standouts in high school and Ross later went on to play football and basketball at Indiana University. The oldest of the three Hales kids, Grace, was a multi-sport star at Westview High School before moving to Valparaiso University where she played college basketball. Elijah Hales just wrapped up his freshman year at DePauw, where he played basketball for the Tigers after an exceptional career at Westview.
So it would seem the pressure is on for Hales to keep the line moving with a basketball. But she has no interest in becoming famous in the Tiger Den in the winter. It’s in the fall where she wants to leave her mark.
“I think it really came from watching my siblings playing sports, and watching different sports growing up,” offered Hales. “I played basketball when I was younger, but my brother and sister playing basketball, and my parents being coaches, you learn how everyone’s roles make up a winning game. I’ve taken that approach with volleyball.”
To appreciate the numbers Hales has posted nationally, one has to realize she isn’t just waiting on passes from her teammates so she can cherry pick assists. Hales is one of the more well-rounded players in the game, already recording 116 digs, 94 kills and 21 aces. So for those counting, Hales has had a hand in 784 Warsaw points this year. Warsaw as a team has scored 1,388 points in its 23 contests. That equates to roughly 57 percent of Warsaw’s points are resulting from the touch of Hales.
She ranks No. 1 in the state in total assists by 45 (assuming Tuesday’s numbers) and is second in assists per set.
“Avery is one of a kind,” said Warsaw head coach Chandra Hepler. “She is as competitive as they come. She’s self-motivated. She has a great spirit and comes from a competitive family. She is truly the engine for us. She makes us go. She is a playmaker and whether it’s in practice in short courts or we are playing Queens of the Court, really basic things, she is out for blood. She sets the tone for us and I love that about her.”
Hales’ well-rounded approach can also be attributed some to her sand volleyball exploits. As part of the EVP summer sand tour, Hales and playing partner – fellow WCHS sophomore Katie McKibbin – won the 16U EVP Juniors tourney championship. Having to cover a lot more ground in the sand as well as having to be able to offensively attack as well as assist, Hales pointed to her summer ‘training’ to how she’s started so hot this indoor season.
“Cross-training positions is super important to me,” Hales said. “Passing drills, in the gym, we do Purdue passes. Knees, hands, pass. It’s repetitive. Everyone’s like, this is boring, it’s so basic. But I feel like that the basics are so important. But you never know, I could go down and then Abbie (Porter) would have to come in and set. If she’s not ready, we’re going to struggle. And I feel like that’s my role with the team. If I can help out anywhere on the court, if I’m needed somewhere, I can be there.”