Starting young

Freshman+right+side+hitter+Hailey+Bethune+spikes+the+ball+during+a+home+game+against+Colorado%2C+Friday%2C+Nov.+1.

John Freitag

Freshman right side hitter Hailey Bethune spikes the ball during a home game against Colorado, Friday, Nov. 1.

After years of being forced to watch her sister play volleyball, Hailey Bethune finally fell in love with the sport.

Being too young to stay at home, Bethune remembers having to sit and watch all of her sister’s tournaments and practices as a child. It wasn’t something she enjoyed at first, but once she was finally old enough to play herself, she was ready to hit the court.

“I’ve always kind of liked games that are a little bit more on the mental side, which I think volleyball is,” Bethune said. “You’re constrained to your side of the net, so everything that happens on your side is a product of your mental state. I thought that was kind of cool.”

She remembers being good from the beginning when she was allowed to start playing, probably aided by having an older sister to compete with.

“We would kind of just play in the street, just pass the ball to each other,” she said.

The two just missed each other in high school – as Hailey entered Lincoln High School in Stockton, Calif., her sister, Stephanie, was just graduating. Stephanie went on to play volleyball at Claremont McKenna College, but not before passing on some knowledge to her Lincoln teammates.

“She would come in and do the summer clinics with the high school,” Bethune said. “Being able to play with her when she was the veteran from the school and me being the new person, I liked that.”

When Hailey started playing club volleyball at age 12 she already knew she wanted to play at the collegiate level, and getting her first letter of interest from Louisiana State when she was 14 only solidified her goals.

She remembers Washington State being her second serious offer from a school, and it definitely wasn’t the last one she received.  But like many others in her freshman class here, she was sold on WSU’s direction as a program.

“Obviously we haven’t been where we’d like to be that last couple years, but the idea they have and the way they want to build this program is something I wanted to get invested in,” she said.

In addition to the program itself, the opportunity to play at a Pac-12 university was a big draw for Bethune. It also didn’t hurt that she would have to opportunity to play on the same side of the net as big-hitting Kyra Holt, who was her opponent during her club volleyball days.

After finally accomplishing her goal of making it to a Pac-12 school, the beginning of her career in crimson and gray was put on hold due to a concussion she sustained in the preseason.

“That was very frustrating,” she said. “I was really ready to compete for a position and then just having to sit down for a while and basically just sit in a dark room for a couple weeks, not being allowed in practice, it was really frustrating.”

Now that she is fully recovered, she’s back on the court, finding playing time in nearly half of the Cougars’ conference sets.

“When I finally got to be able to play, I was like, ‘This is what you’ve been working for since you got back. This is what you’ve been working for, for a couple years now,’” she said.

Hailey and the Cougars take on Colorado and Utah this Friday and Saturday at home in Bohler Gym.