Hall surprises many, except herself
The average height of a Texas volleyball player is a tick above 6-foot-1. That average leads the nation, making the 2005 Longhorns the country's tallest team. Freshman Kiley Hall is the shortest player on the squad, just reaching 5-foot-9.
But, Hall didn't let that fact stop her last Saturday against Lamar at the Ole Miss Magnolia Invitational. But then again, the Cardinals couldn't stop her either.
Hall was an unusually late signee at Texas, penning her National Letter of Intent in July. Just days before her graduation from Newport Harbor High School in Costa Mesa, Calif., the same high school that produced current Longhorn libero Alyson Jennings and Olympic gold medalist and AVP star Misty May, Hall was expecting to enroll in junior college to continue her sports career.
"Literally, the day before my graduation, I received a phone call (from Texas)," Hall said. "It was a whirlwind trying to get all the information sent out, having coaches coming out to Reno to see me play and then me coming to Austin to visit the school. It all happened within a month or so of first hearing from the coaches.
"Once I got the offer, I was super excited. I had no questions whatsoever. I was like, 'Give me the paper, I'll sign it!'"
Even though she was an outside hitter throughout her high school and club career, Hall decided to come to Texas and be a defensive specialist for the chance to play at a Division I school. She had been overlooked during the normal recruiting process because of her perceived lack of height and was prepared to attend a Irvine Junior College - a team coached by a close friend of her parents - in order to boost her reputation for Division I schools.
"I was a little disappointed about going to a junior college because I knew I was capable of playing at a higher level," Hall said. "So when Texas came along, I was glad I held out until the end."
Then, however, there was the small matter of Hall's height and her preferred position. Texas head coach Jerritt Elliott had a stockpile of 6-foot-plus hitters already on the roster with two more coming in as freshmen, but during Hall's recruitment, he never ruled out letting her have her chance on the outside.
"I'd never actually been a defensive specialist until I'd arrived at Texas," Hall said. "I'd played front row and all the way around in high school and club ball.
"I am short. I'm only 5-9 on a good day, and Division I - and Texas in general - is very tall. I came here knowing that. I just wanted the chance to play outside and Jerritt told me that if I could earn the spot and showed I could handle myself, that I would have chances, whether it was in practice or in tournaments.
"So I came here knowing that the chance was slim, but that there was still a chance. I've never thought of myself as super short because I've never played with anyone of (the Texas players') size, but I'd played against teams with taller players. I learned how to adapt and use the defenders' size against them, whether it was tipping or tooling the block."
Saturday evening against Lamar, Elliott's promise came true. After subbing in as the defensive specialist in the first game, Hall started the second game on the outside and played every rotation. In two full games, Hall proved to be the Horns' most effective attacker connecting for nine kills on 16 attacks with no errors and a .562 hitting percentage.
More impressive, was Hall's ability to jump and pound the ball into the opposing court. She routinely hit with perfect placement so much so that even the Lamar blockers were stunned by her prowess at the net.
"I just went out and just played my game. It surprised a few people I think because I'm categorized as defensive specialist.
"I play volleyball because I love the feeling I get when we're playing matches. Being able to get my chance to show that I can play front row at this level was a great feeling.
"It was awesome to have that experience with this team, win the tournament and bring the trophy back home."
And, it should be noted, it was in fact Hall who was charged with guarding the trophy and toting it all the way from Oxford, Miss., to Austin.