By BRANDON VEALE
HOUGHTON - Michigan Tech coach Matt Jennings didn't need to check the credentials on recruit Halie Hart's volleyball education.
Westosha Central's Halie Hart gets a dig against Muskego in the quarterfinals of the WIAA state volleyball tournament in Green Bay. Hart will join Michigan Tech’s volleyball program this fall. (Kenosha News photo)
He lived some of them himself.
Both Jennings and Hart, a 5-foot-5 defensive specialist, have extensive experience with the Sky High Volleyball Club program in northwest Chicago. After seven years with Sky High, Hart will join the Huskies this fall.
"It pretty much made me how I am. It's made me work hard towards a goal. Nothing's ever just given to you," Hart said.
"They just do a good job at molding their players and getting them ready for college."
Jennings and his younger sister have experience there. Both Jennings and Hart worked with Sky High coach Chas Kennedy.
"There's a tenacity that's kind of built into that system," Jennings said, a tenacity that Hart can bring to the Huskies' back row.
"She's just got a motor on her."
Hart, from Salem, Wis., just across the border from Illinois, also had success on the high school level with Westosha Central, as the Falcons reached the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association Division 1 championship match in Green Bay before defeat at the hands of Menomonee Falls.
"The fact that there were so many people there and they're all watching you it was scary, but it was awesome at the same time," she said.
Hart had a match-high 16 digs in the championship as the Falcons went up against Menomonee Falls' Simone Lee, a 6-2 outside hitter headed to defending Division I national champion Penn State this fall.
Though a 3-0 sweep is no one's storybook ending, eight months' time have provided Hart perspective on how important the accomplishment was that she and her teammates achieved.
"We extended our season to the very last possible day it could have been and that was awesome," Hart said.
Hart capped her high school career with 597 digs in her senior season, in addition to 36 aces. She was the two-time defensive player of the year in her conference and was named to the all-state and state tournament teams.
The fearlessness Hart brings to the volleyball court was also expressed outdoors as Hart was a two-time participant in the Wisconsin state track finals as a pole vaulter.
Hart describes herself as a 'winter person,' and so the timing of her official visit was particularly appropriate: just before this year's Winter Carnival.
"There was just a connection there," she said. "I just fell in love with Michigan Tech when I went up to visit."
Hart, and fellow recruit Elle Heinonen (Delano, Minn.,) in a back-row group that includes junior DS Sarah Rasmussen and junior libero Jackie Aird but lost one senior in Tessa Mauer.
Hart expressed an interest in studying psychology when she arrives in Houghton with an eye on becoming a sports psychologist.
But neither she nor Jennings need a Ph.D. to recognize the benefits of Hart's playing at the highest levels of club and high school competition.
"Getting out there and playing the game and being in pressure situations, working hard, having people pushing me, that's made me better," she said.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first story in "Tech Tomorrow 2014," an ongoing series of profiles of incoming athletes to Michigan Tech athletic programs that will appear in the Daily Mining Gazette throughout the summer.