Salpointe Catholic junior Haley Howell played with a U.S. national youth team over the summer and called the experience invaluable.


Haley Howell doesn't need to be reminded of all the talent Southern Arizona's girls volleyball landscape recently lost.

All she has to do is go to practice.

Salpointe Catholic's setter had become accustomed to dishing balls up for a pair of 6-foot-2-inch hitters in Catie Coyle and Emily Malisewski last season.

They're gone now, Coyle at Maryland and Malisewski at Sacramento State.

It's the same story at other schools, such as Sabino, which lost star Maddie Bushman; and Ironwood Ridge, which must find a way to replace the irreplaceable in Michaela Christiaansen.

For Howell, it's been an adjustment.

"The sets have to be different," she explained. "Things have to be adjusted. The passes need to be better."

Entering her junior year, Howell has found a leadership role on a team with a junior-dominated roster.

Luckily, she's fit for it. Over the summer, the vocal and athletic Howell, daughter of former UA tight end Glenn Howell (1983-85), tried out and was the only Southern Arizonan selected for a U.S. national youth team that played a half-dozen games over three days at Tucson Convention Center.

Howell gained invaluable knowledge in her short time with the team, much of which she's been able to share with her Salpointe teammates. Here's a look at how the experience changed her:

Improved play: For starters, as a result of her time with the national team, Howell is now a jump-server.

She had never jump-served before but gave it a shot on the advice of U.S. coaches.

"I love jump-serving now," she said. "They asked me to try it and so I did, and now jump-serving is my thing."

In addition, Howell said she received helpful pointers on how to improve her blocking, digging and on-court decision making.

"They really helped me to see the game clearer and how to make better decisions," she said.

Better teammate: With volleyball being one of the most momentum-dominated sports, Howell said the national team was big on attitude and energy.

She was taught three key tips for keeping the on-court energy at a high level.

1. Draw blood: Start strong and apply pressure from the get-go.

2. Not two: Rebound immediately from giving up a point, never allowing the opposition consecutive points.

3. Five hitters: With the exception of the setter, everyone on the court, regardless of their position, hits.

"We talked a lot about strategy of the game, but not only that. We talked about how to be a team," Howell said.

Self-promoter: Howell said the majority of the girls on the national team were (a) seniors and (b) college-bound by way of volleyball scholarship.

Thus, her slightly more-experienced teammates had plenty of pointers on how the recruiting process works.

"They're all talking about, 'You have to expose yourself,'" Howell said. "It's really stressful. I've got to send out emails, send out letters. It's not being cocky or anything, you just have to.

"I definitely want to play in college," Howell said. "That's what I'm looking forward to."

2011 watch list

Rowan Bond, Sr., Amphitheater

Chloe Heinemann, Sr., Ironwood Ridge

Haley Howell, Jr., Salpointe Catholic

Kerry Lane, Jr., Canyon del Oro

Stephanie Mendivil, Jr., Cienega

Courtney Pitts, Sr., Catalina

Molly Ragan, Sr., Rincon/ University

Hannah Rebb, Sr., Sabino

Jazmin Rogers Sr., Palo Verde

Courtney Spalt, Jr., Sabino

Selections made by Star staff in consultation with area coaches.