By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– Salem Academy’s Kacyn Hiley had an unique finish to her freshman year. Being called up to Varsity for the 3A State Playoffs, the Crusaders final year in the classification before dropping down to 2A the following year, an injury to Natalie Rios in the third-place match with South Umpqua had thrust the then-freshman onto the court.
“I remember the moment, our Middle Blocker Natalie went down and (Head Coach) Mel (Holman) turned her head and ‘that’s you’. My heart started racing really fast and I felt like I was going to throw up,” Hiley starts. “But after I got there, I started to see how we worked as a team and it got progressively less and less hard to be on the court.
“So as people started encouraging me and bringing me in, giving me high-fives, it was a lot better. Even though I wasn’t hitting anything….I got a couple of balls over the net, but it was nice being part of the team and knowing that they trusted me enough to put me in there and take in the rotation.”
At this point, Hiley had only a few years of Volleyball experience under her belt, having picked up the sport in the sixth-grade ontop of doing Ballet. The latter she’s done since she was three-years-old and has been juggling the two sports ever since.
There’s been tough moments along the way that came with moments of stress that she would have to quit one or the other to lighten the load on her plate. But through it all, with Salem Academy’s deep playoff runs pushing up against the start of the Nutcracker performances for instance, Hiley has made it all work at the end of the day.
“It’s definitely difficult, because I do take a lot of honors classes as well, there’s not a lot of free time for me. Free time, I don’t know, it’s not something that’s big for me because I’m always doing so many things. So my free time is ballet, my free time is volleyball,” Hiley describes juggling both sports. “I find that being in Volleyball and being in Ballet, they help each other. Volleyball has helped me with Ballet to be more out there. Ballet has helped me with stability even in Volleyball.
“It’s hard but it’s a lot of fun….it’ll help me a lot later in life with time management skills. So I’m just focused on having fun this year.”
It’s been stressful Hiley admits, especially around Christmas Time, but time management has something that she picked up through the years down to a science. Adjusting when she needs to and make sure she makes it to practices, does her homework with her Honors Class load, etc. Academics having a big deal for Hiley, who mentioned the standard that her older sister Madi had set for her going into High School
“It’s pretty important for me yeah (with) academics,” smiles Hiley. “I always make sure I have a Study Hall so I can get all my stuff done. It’s a big thing for me, my sister was a Valedictorian so coming into High School I need to reach that goal. It’s a little bit of pressure, I feel like since it is pressure and that I’m doing so many things at once, it makes me strive to be better with all of those things.”
And with her massive workload Holman points towards Hiley’s effort and dedication, Saying that Hiley always giving her 100-percent effort when she’s there the full practice or has to leave early, the effort is always at a maximal effort as her Middle Blocker juggles everything that she’s doing.
“When she’s giving me her time, she’s giving me a hundred-percent of her time. So I’ve never been upset about it because I’m never worried about her commitment. I’m not worried that if she’s leaving, it’s not because she’s not committed. I know exactly why she’s leaving,” Holman said.
As Salem Academy helped out with the Middle School camp Tuesday afternoon, Hiley was in attendance helping out walking through a few drills with future Crusader volleyball players. She’s slowly found her groove through the years going into her final season on the heels of Salem Academy winning the 2A State Title this past Fall, Hiley picked up five digs and a kill in the 25-13, 25-18, 25-18 sweep of Gaston in 2021.
It wasn’t too long ago that Hiley had to step into a chaotic playoff atmosphere as a freshman in what was a five-set thriller over the Lancers that had Salem Academy finish third in 3A in 2019 with this final chapter of Hiley’s High School career about to begin.
Hiley’s excited for the opportunity that this year has to bring and the ability to see what she can do to contribute to the team when the first practice of the season arrives on August 15 with the target on their backs.
“Winning State last year, we definitely got a target on our back. I’m just excited…My freshman and sophomore year I was really quiet and I didn’t really put myself out there for Volleyball and I want to see what I can do more. Mel calls it Beast Mode,” Hiley starts. “Definitely with my senior year, I want to get as many things in as I can.”
Salem Academy opens the season with a jamboree at South Salem High School on August 25 before heading to Medford on August 27 to play Vale and Cascade Christian at Cascade Christian at 11am and 1pm.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald