Prep volleyball: For 3-plus years, Syracuse senior Hailee Garcia has consistently delivered
From the technique of putting the ball in the air consistently, to being able to take any kind of pass and deliver a hittable set, there are plenty of difficult things that go with being a setter in volleyball.
One is that setters can only do so much. After they put the ball in the air, it’s up to the hitter to put the ball away.
In that respect, a setter’s statistics depend entirely on other players, though a good setter can obviously make a huge difference between a good hitting team and a bad one.
For three-plus years, Syracuse High senior Hailee Garcia has been the mark of consistency for the Titans volleyball team. She already holds one state record for assists and could be in reach of another by the end of the season.
“Setting’s a hard position. That’s why Hailee is so talented because it doesn’t matter, she’ll put up a hittable ball for anybody,” Syracuse head coach Corrie Vigil said.
Put another way, a good setter is someone who has to be comfortable with the fact that there’s a lot of things out of their control.
“My mentality as a setter is to better the ball. No matter the pass, I need to put up the same hittable ball for my hitters so even if we’re having a bad passing match, my mentality is I have to deliver the same ball every time,” Garcia said.
It took plenty of time and repetition for Garcia to get to where she is now, particularly as she began playing volleyball as a hitter and didn’t pick up setting until seventh grade.
Garcia also had to adjust a lot to the variety of players that have come through Syracuse: tall middle hitters, short outside hitters, right-handers and left-handers.
“Each hitter’s different, you kind of have to set them a little different — even though you’re running the same ball they like it tight (to the net) or (far) off (the net), or stuff like that,” Garcia said.
Patrick Carr, Standard-Examiner Syracuse senior Hailee Garcia (right) celebrates with teammates during a match at Weber High on Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2021.
So far, she’s adjusted just fine.
Garcia has played all but one match her three-plus years at Syracuse. After Thursday’s sweep of Farmington, she has 2,524 career assists, which ranks sixth in that category (Snow Canyon’s Ciara Parker has the record at 3,177).
Garcia holds the record for most assists in a single match in UHSAA history, dishing out 68 in a five-set loss against Fremont last year. Like many, records aren’t her priority.
“We lost that game,” was basically her reaction when her dad told her afterward that she’d broken the record.
Garcia took over the starting position as a freshman around the time region play started in 2018 and has been the distributor of the Titans’ attack ever since.
“Coming into my freshman year, I was terrified. There was a junior setter and a sophomore setter and I don’t know if I’m going to play, but I fought hard,” Garcia said. “My freshman year, the junior and sophomore setters, I strived to be better than them and it motivates me to better myself.”
Vigil said it was Garcia’s talent and potential that got her the starting spot as a freshman. Vigil touted Garcia’s leadership as a huge benefit to the team.
“She’s such a strong leader and such a good example to the younger kids, especially,” Vigil said.
Since Garcia’s freshman year in 2018, Syracuse has won the region once, finished in second place twice, and advanced to the state quarterfinals all three years.
“I know she’s hungry to get past that quarterfinal match, she’s dealt with that every year. That’s something I know is a goal for her. Her experience with that is going to help us,” Vigil said.
The Titans have been one of the better programs in Northern Utah the past few years, but a semifinal appearance has eluded them.
“These past few years I’ve been really proud of how well we’ve played because to be that close is an accomplishment,” Garcia said. “But at the same time, it’s a little frustrating because we could’ve given it a little more and maybe we would’ve gotten closer. Last year at state, we didn’t have our libero which hurt us a lot. We definitely could’ve gone farther if we had her.”
The period between the end of the 2020 high school season at the start of this one was eventful.
Garcia verbally committed to play at St. Mary’s College in the West Coast Conference, citing a desire to live in California as well as SMC being one of the only schools to recruit her that has a beach volleyball team.
She also started playing soccer again — she says she quit in middle school — with a club team whose coach is fine with the fact that volleyball is Garcia’s priority.
Around midway through club volleyball season earlier this year, she could tell she was a little faster getting to the ball.
It took her back to when she was learning how to be a setter in the first place.
“Footwork for me was a huge deal, because as a setter you gotta get to the ball fast. Soccer helped with that a lot actually because I had pretty fast feet, then I just had to master the footwork, then it was my hands,” Garcia said.