When open gyms for volleyball were scheduled earlier this month, Haley Carter was an eager participant, though she has already graduated from Booneville High School.
After all, she still has a match left to play.
Carter became the first Booneville volleyball player selected to participate in the All-Star match after having been named to the team following her record-shattering senior season. The match takes place Friday at 6 p.m. at the Farris Center at the University of Central Arkansas.
It has been a long and sometimes arduous road for the 6-1 middle hitter. The journey began in the sixth grade, when Carter turned up at the camp that the LadyCats put on for the elementary school. While almost all of the others came in shorts, Carter arrived in rolled-up jeans.
Even then she towered over most of the other participants. Her potential talent was at once seen by Booneville player Whitney Weaver, who began working with her. It took a little bit of time for her coordination to catch up with her height, but by her eighth-grade year Carter, now 5-10, was good enough to see action in a few varsity matches.
Her big break came when the FSJ-Booneville JO program was established. She and six other girls formed the first Booneville-based club team, and the added practice time and match play she got began showing in her freshman season. Now a six-footer, Carter helped lead the Jr. LadyCats to a then-team-best 19-11 season. She became the first junior high player to surpass 100 kills in a season and also the first to have 10 kills in a junior high match, doing so in the semifinals of the district tournament when she got 10 spikes against West Fork.
During the next season of club play, Carter became dominant in the middle. She helped the team, now known as Tsunami, to 16 match wins and five first- or second-place bracket wins. It was a nice lead-in to her sophomore season, where she teamed with Abby Glass to form a dominant middle-hitting duo. Carter scored the match-winning point when the LadyCats knocked off Paris on the Lady Eagles’ home floor, and Booneville finished with a 23-8-2 record and a state quarterfinal berth.
Carter joined teammates Glass and Brittany Drawbaugh on the Club Velocity JO team based in Greenwood that winter, and those three helped the team win a tournament in Kansas City and take home some other hardware. But just after that club season ended, Carter made the decision not to play in her junior season.
But as it turned out, the love of the game overcame whatever reasons she had to not play, and Carter came back aboard, albeit too late to play in the 2016 season, She became a passionate practice player, doing her part to help the team where she could.
It was quite obvious coming into her senior season that Carter was going to be a dominant player, and she did not disappoint. A match where she did not have at least 10 kills was the exception rather than the rule. With Aleeah Blansett, another middle duo was formed that took over a lot of matches. She had a high of 19 kills in one match as the LadyCats had their best season ever, at 27-8. Carter bowed out with another tremendous performance, doing all she could against Baptist Prep and finishing with 17 kills for the match.
Carter finished with 345 kills in her senior season and became the first LadyCat to surpass 500 career kills. Yet it was not just about the kills for her. She was extremely adept at blocking, finishing third in the career numbers, and she did not need a libero when on the back row as she dug at over 71% in her senior season.
She was nominated to play in the All-Star game after the season and earlier this year, got the word that she was selected to play. Since then, Carter has worked when she could, with the open gyms on June 6 and 13 coming at an opportune time for her.
Her love of rock and alternative music, combined with her dominance in hitting and blocking, led to an obvious nickname for her: “The Rocker”. And on Friday night, Haley Carter will get to rock the volleyball world one more time.