Michaela Hall would label herself as having been quiet in high school; never outspoken. “A leader is something I never would have described myself as in the past,” said Hall, a 2014 graduate of Centralia High School. “Sports certainly brought me out of my shell. I assumed a leader was a person that talked a lot and always had the right thing to say. College taught me that everyone can lead in their own unique way.”
Some get aggressive, others become motivating cheerleaders. Hall, who is now a senior captain for Western Washington University’s volleyball team, just plays it cool.
“Michaela has always been someone that people have looked to because of her calm under pressure, her thoughtfulness in different situations and her ability to communicate,” said WWU coach Diane Flick-Williams. “The only change over the years has been her confidence in those skills and giving more of herself. Her personality is infectious and the more Michaela gives, the better we are.”
And the Vikings have been simply lights-out great this season.
After opening the year losing their first three matches at the UWF Invitational (a tournament featuring teams ranked in the Preseason NCAA Division II AVCA Top 25 in Pensacola, Florida), Western Washington has ran roughshod through the competition to take a stranglehold on the Great Northwest Athletic Conference.
“I can honestly say I have never played with such a special group of young women before,” said Hall, who is one of five seniors on the Vikings’ roster this season. “We are all so incredibly close and I easily call everyone in my senior class my best friends. Our bond has only grown over the last few years.”
Interestingly, Western wasn’t on Hall’s radar during the majority of her high school playing days. It wasn’t until she attended a summer camp that was hosted by the Vikings’ volleyball program before her senior year that she first started considering heading to Bellingham.
The interest became mutual once Hall arrived on campus and the WWU coaching staff got a look at the 6-foot-1 middle blocker.
“Michaela came to our Elite Camp in the summer and when we were looking for a hard hitting middle, her name was top on the list. She was a bit quiet and shy on one hand, but once she did talk, I was impressed with how thoughtful her words were,” said Flick-Williams, a nine-time recipient of the GNAC’s Coach of the Year award. “I am not sure if Michaela or I knew where she would take us on her journey at Western. All I know is that I am better off as a coach and a person by having her on our team.”
After redshirting her first year at WWU, Hall played in all 33 matches during her redshirt freshman season of 2015, helping the Vikings advance to the NCAA Division II Elite Eight.
The following year as a sophomore she was voted by her teammates as Western’s most improved player. The Vikings made a return trip to the NCAA tournament, the program’s fifth consecutive tournament berth.
She continued her upward trend last year as a junior, earning first team GNAC all-conference honors after registering 292 kills and 134 blocks on the year as Western captured its first GNAC championship since 2013.
“Michaela and her classmates have been part of a culture change during her time here that will have ripple effects in the future,” Flick-Williams said. “She has influenced the character of the program which, in turn, has influenced future Vikings in the recruiting process. She is such a solid person with high morals and character, and has certainly left her mark.”
A two-time GNAC all-academic honoree, posting a 3.76 grade point average as a sophomore and tallying a 3.72 GPA as a junior, Hall will graduate in May with a degree in Kinesiology with an emphasis in sports psychology.
But before she begins her career pursuit in the healthcare field, Hall and her Viking teammates are focused on adding a few more banners to Carver Gymnasium.
WWU will play its final regular season match on November 3 against Concordia, and then hit the road for the final two matches, including a November 8 road contest at Saint Martin’s University in Olympia.
“My height initially drew me to the sport, but as I began to understand the game, I grew to love its complexity and the multiple skill sets required to do well in the sport,” Hall said. “Volleyball is the ultimate team sport, it cannot be played alone. My coach really emphasizes having a galaxy and not a star of the team. That is why I am so passionate about the game. It simply can’t be played individually. It forces trust and relationships with every player on and off the court. If I’m being honest, we all just have a burning desire to compete and win as well.”