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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Interview with Melissa Hales: Part II

UMB volleyball player
UMB volleyball player

Part I appeared November 14

Hales is a setter, a position that she has played since high school. Her primary responsibility on offense is to place the ball in the air so her teammates can have the optimal chance of converting a kill attempt and score points. She loves the defensive side of play as well, but she knows that her offensive execution is crucial to her team a chance at victory.

“It’s often described as being the quarterback of a football team, or the point guard of a basketball team. It’s not a glory position, the hitters get that, but I don’t mind. Simply, I set up the plays and call the hitting patterns (offensive plays that decides who hits the ball). I’ve always played setter, although the offense that I ran in high school was different from the one that I run now.”

Hales is a captain along with fellow senior Laurel Smith. The team has had to deal with depth problems during her two plus years at UMass Boston. Hales fully recognizes that with captaincy comes the added duty of leadership, which she tries to demonstrate to the best of her ability.

“I try to have a positive attitude. Sometimes I get frustrated with myself when I make mistakes. I try to encourage everyone when they make mistakes, telling them to shake it off and move on to the next play. I want them to feel welcomed and comfortable. I don’t look down on [my teammate] because they’re younger or haven’t played as many years.”

Hales points out that she has great rapport with Smith, on and off the court. “Laurel is a big help since she has played with me during the two full season that I have been with the team. I know how high she likes the ball to be place for a kill attempt, although I don’t always get it there,” she says with a chuckle. “You get to know each other’s moves, that definitely helps. I have areas of weaknesses where she has strengths and vice versa.”

Hales knows that she is aggressive on the court, an aggressive that is demanded by her position of setter. “Yes, it’s expected. With experience, you become more comfortable taking charge of the play. As a setter, I need to be vocal and tell people where they need to be. It’s part of my job. If I need help then I have to call for it. Otherwise, my teammates have to listen for my voice and back off a ball if I call for it.” She makes no apology for her play, bluntly stating. “I am intense.”

According to Hales, the lessons that are learned from being a part of a team are ones that can be used off the court. Confidence and assertiveness are two areas that Hales feels she improved on due to volleyball.

“I’m kind of a shy person. It helps me come out of my shell. Problems that you face during the day can build up and volleyball helps me sort through a lot of them. It’s kind of therapeutic and it helps you work with people too. I have a problem with authority,” Hales says candidly. “I’m not sure I’m all the way there, that I’ve grown that much in regards to taking orders or being told what to do. I’m still working on that one.”

Hales believes last year’s squad was unique in many ways. One of her teammates was then senior Gina Torres, who is now an assistant coach under Coach Ken Goon. Hales defines the camaraderie felt among the players as something that could be one of those “once in a lifetime experiences”.

“We had a really special team last year. There were only six [players]. We had strong feelings for each other. Everyone respected on another opinions and their backgrounds. All the players had this complete understanding of their teammates, a feeling that I’ve never experienced on another team before.”

“Having [Torres] as one of the coaches this year has definitely helped in terms of the younger players. She is a very strong role model. She does very well for herself, in everything she does; she’s very positive. I think it balances out the coaching, having female presence on the coaching staff. [Women] know how hard they can push you. Men coaches that I have had sometimes don’t know the limits of women, they perhaps think they can’t push us as hard because were girls. But Gina has been there. She’s a great presence for me; she’s like another set of eyes.

Hales admits that this season has not been successful in terms of wins and losses. Yet, she views this year as a “building” season, a step toward a better future for the team.

“We hope to give the younger player a chance to jell. That’s why last season was so good, because we had the year before grow together. We bonded together on and off the court. I hope that the younger players take this season and, hopefully, they find the same results. They have the talent; they just need to refine their skills.”

Hales currently works as a bartender at the Lizard Lounge in Cambridge. Juggling a demanding activity like volleyball, schoolwork, and job leaves little time for anything else.

“I’m a little stressed out right now,” says Hales. “Those things (job, homework, volleyball) leaves you with little time for a social life. But I try to make time. My brother lives in South Boston, and I try to make it over there as much as I can. He and his wife just had a baby girl. That’s an added incentive.

With her departure from the university soon to come, Hales is looking forward to the next stage in her life. She will graduate as a degree in English with a minor in psychology. She thought about obtaining a German minor, but that didn’t materialize. Not surprisingly, she won’t stray too far from her present passion, at least initially.

“I’ll be coaching at Dana Hall in the winter as the varsity coach. I’m a little nervous, but I am excited. The season ends in February. I plan on taking the spring off and then landing a job in social work. I hope to go to graduate school next fall for social work. I’m looking at Simmons and Northeastern.”

Although she is looking forward to the future, Hales is going to miss UMass Boston as a whole, but she is going to miss being a student athlete most of all.

“I’m going to miss the routine of practice and games. I’ll also miss the team aspects and seeing my teammates. And, of course, the game of volleyball.”

“But,” she says with a somewhat sad smile, “I’ll have a lot more time.”