Across The Net: Penn State’s Haleigh Washington

  0 Wendy Mayer | October 27th, 2017 | Big Ten, College - Women's Indoor, News

Penn State senior middle blocker Haleigh Washington leads the nation with a .510 hitting percentage, but this isn’t the senior’s first time among the nation’s best hitters. She was third nationally in efficiency the last two seasons (.430 in 2016; .442 in 2015) and managed a .463 effort in 2014, but was short of the NCAA minimum on sets played for ranking (66.7 percent of their team’s sets).

Washington recently joined the 1,000 kill club. The senior then followed that up by notching her 500th career block.

Her career hitting percentage coming into the week of .457 ranks third in NCAA Division I history behind Chloe Mann (Florida, 2010-13) at .476 (902 kills,  134 errors, 1,614 attempts) and Arielle Wilson (Penn State 2007-10) at .468 (1,114K, 189E, 1,975 att.). Washington is just ahead of former Nittany Lion Christa Harmotto (2005-08)’s .433 effort.

To find out what makes Washington so successful and tough to defend, we checked in with a few of the coaches who know her the best, her opponents in the Big Ten and Stanford’s Kevin Hambly, whose Cardinal took on the Nittany Lions twice in the preseason.

“Haleigh is a tremendous volleyball athlete who hits with range and power in front of and behind the setter,” Purdue head coach Dave Shondell said. “She is a challenge to defend because of her jump and reach and that she sees the block very well. I think she has a wonderful temperament for the game that allows her to stay focused and relaxed. The best thing about Haleigh is that she certainly appears to be an awesome teammate. There is nothing better than to have an amazing athlete, who is also a superb leader and teammate.”

Indiana head coach Sherry Dunbar-Kruzan agreed that it is more than her skills that make Washington a great player.

“Haleigh’s passion for the game is second to none when playing against her,” Dunbar-Kruzan said. “She can change and affect a match in so many ways. She’s fun to watch but not fun to play against. I’m most impressed with her presence both on offense and defense this season. The consistency, no matter the opponent, sets her apart from other players at our level. She’s a role model for how that position should be played.”

Rutgers boss CJ Werneke, whose team is travel partners with the Nittany Lions during Big Ten play, said there are so many factors that make Washington who she is.

“She has great size and length, which is always tough to defend,” Werneke said. “Pair that with her athleticism, and she’s one of the most dynamic players off one foot we’ve ever seen. She’s almost unstoppable when playing behind the setter. She reminds me of Stanford’s Inky Ajanaku in that way. She’s just a dominant presence, and a high-energy kid at the heart of her team.”

Stanford coach Kevin Hambly said Washington has many enviable qualities on and off the court.

“I think she is the best slide hitter in the country right now, and the slide is one of the most difficult things to stop,” Hambly said. “She is just a beast. That week that we played them the first time, I thought she was the reason that they won. We were doing a nice job on (Simone) Lee and on (Ali) Frantti and on (Abby) Detering, but I thought Washington was the reason they won because she hit .550 and disrupted our entire defense. It opened things up late when we had to stop her because any chance they could get they were just firing the ball to her.

“My favorite thing about her is not that she is a great athlete and she hits at a high point, but she seems unflappable. She just has a good time. She seems to love volleyball and enjoys playing it so much that the pressure doesn’t matter, the moment doesn’t matter. She is just like ‘I am having fun and I am just going to go out here and ball out.’ She is super competitive and she loves that competition. That is intimidating for another team, when this kid is out there dancing around and having a good time and then hitting .550 against you and stuffing you off the court. It is not just that she looks like she is having a good time, I think she is. She is obviously a Player of the Year candidate and she is probably the best player we have faced this year.”

Whatever her secret, there is no question that Washington is one of the best in the country.

In addition to being one of the 107 players nationwide with 1,000 career kills, she is one of just three players nationally, and the lone player in the Big Ten, with 1,000 kills and 500 blocks to her credit.

1,000 Kill/500 Block Club Members

Name School  Kills Blocks
Faith Dooley North Dakota 1,332 623
Rhamat Alhassan Florida 1,145 582
Hailey Washington Penn State 1,009 502

Potential 1000 Kill/500 Block Players

Name School  Kills Blocks
Kaitlyn Kearney N.C. State 994 504
Amber Erhahon Dayton 1,027 495
Alyssa Garvelink Michigan State 938 499
Abbie Lehman Wichita State 1,218 469
Merete Lutz Stanford 1,078 450
Sam Fry Notre Dame 1,012 449


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About Wendy Mayer

Wendy Mayer

Wendy Mayer has worked in athletics media relations for the last 20 years. The Northwest Missouri State alumna is currently senior writer for after spending the last 15 years with Purdue athletics.

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