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Bailey Tanner, left, and Carly DeHoog, right, suffered preseason injuries that have kept them in supporting roles this year.
Freshmen Trio Bide Their Time With Bright Future
Release: 11/24/2013
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SEATTLE – One year ago on signing day, Washington announced the addition of a pair of high school standouts, Carly DeHoog and Bailey Tanner, both from Southern California and both ranked among the top-20 seniors in the nation. Also committing to walk on would be a local setter from Marysville, Jade Finau, the KingCo League most valuable player. The three were all starring for their respective high school and club teams a year ago, but circumstances have caused them to play the waiting game this season, a challenging process in the moment that they know will pay off over the long run.

The success of the Huskies during the season to this point has not left much room to wonder “what if?” but still, were it not for early season injuries, both DeHoog and Tanner could very well have seen the court already this season and from there who knows how they might have impacted the rotation. Finau was unable to join the squad until the official start of fall quarter and had to dive right into practice with a team that was in the thick of match play.

DeHoog and Tanner were both mixing it up back on August 10, the first day of fall practice, battling the freshman butterflies and trying to do and say all the right things. At the end of that first day, Head Coach Jim McLaughlin said, "They weren't rattled. They have a lot of emotions going on that are all good. But they were listening, and paying attention, and making adjustments, which is the most important thing. I sure like having them in this gym.”

But soon after, DeHoog would suffer a knee sprain in practice, and Tanner would have a recurrence of a stress fracture in her foot. Still weeks before the season opener, the two were spending practices sitting in front of McLaughlin’s white boards and watching their teammates go through the drills and scrimmages.

“You don’t come to Washington to test out the training facilities and see how good our doctors are,” says DeHoog on that first month on campus. “I think when my injury first happened I thought it would take maybe two weeks. But then when I realized it was going to be longer, I tried really hard to stay positive. Bailey and I both kind of suffered through it together.”

For Tanner, the foot injury robbed her of opportunity more than playing time. “I was hoping to come in here and compete for a spot,” she says. “I would have been fine getting beaten out but it was hard to just not have a chance to prove it.”

A San Clemente, Calif. native, Tanner had a stress fracture in the navicular bone of her left foot, playing through the injury to help her club team place third at Junior Nationals this past June. She went into a boot after the tournament, but says she probably did not stay in the boot long enough, wanting to get into shape for the fall. The injury returned and Tanner had to go back in the boot after all.

While DeHoog has been back to full strength for several weeks now, practicing every day and making each road trip, Tanner does not yet have the full green light. Out of the boot, she’s returning to some volleyball activities, but jumping is still restricted.

“The people that redshirted told me that they’re glad they did, and they’re a lot better now because of it,” Tanner says. “It works out for everyone, so I just need to tough it out a little.”

Being so close to fully back is probably the most agonizing wait yet.

“The bone is totally healed, there’s no more fracture, but the muscles and ligaments and tendons around the bone are still healing,” Tanner says. “That’s what Mike (Dillon, the team’s athletic trainer) is careful about. We butt heads about me not coming back too fast. Right now all I’m doing is setting and passing, no jump work or quick footwork. I’m ready to go, so just waiting on Mike to give me the okay.”

DeHoog was not used to a supporting role, never having dealt with an injury before, but she soaked up all the information she could before returning. “I tried my best to learn what I could from listening to what the coaches were telling the other girls, what corrections were being made for them, trying to understand our blocking system and our passing system,” she says. “I would stand back with (volunteer assistant coach Tom Murphy) and he would talk to me about defense. So I would do what I could, but I’ve never really had to do that for so long. It’s good to finally be back.”

Although she was admitted to the University, Finau had to take an extra class for the NCAA to clear her, and officially joined the team right at the beginning of Pac-12 play.

“It was really difficult at first,” Finau says of joining midseason. “Carly and Bailey were able to get to know the girls and get to know what practices were like, and the normal trends. It was hard at first but the girls were very welcoming to me, so I enjoyed it. It really is hard learning to compete with them, but I feel it’s already made me better.”

finau

Jade Finau, second from left, joined the team around the start of Pac-12 play, trying to play catch up on the fly.

Finau did not begin playing volleyball until the beginning of high school, and DeHoog also began relatively late, trading in her early goal of being an Olympic-caliber softball pitcher when she fell in love with volleyball in eighth grade. Most would assume that Tanner was hitting and setting a volleyball as soon as she could walk, as her father is Troy Tanner, a huge name in the sport that won a gold medal on the 1988 U.S. Olympic Team and coached Misty May and Kerri Walsh in the 2008 Olympics. But Tanner and her siblings were free to follow their own passions.

“I played a year of softball and I did gymnastics when I was little but I was too tall and I didn’t even fit in the leotard, so that wasn’t really good for me,” Tanner says. “What was cool about my dad is he wanted me to do what made me happy. My brother played baseball his whole life. My dad just wanted us to pursue something. He was glad we were all kind of sporty, but he would have been fine if I did something else.” Troy coached Bailey when she started volleyball in sixth grade, up until her junior year, but Bailey says, “it was never really serious, it was just fun.”

Like all freshmen, the three are dealing with big adjustments and learning curves, in school and in volleyball. Figuring out the white boards at practice, studying film, and managing time between class and road trips, final exams and a Final Four chase.

Although DeHoog lost a few weeks of on-court action, the Ontario, California native says that the time on the sidelines did help her jump back in faster.

“I think the weeks out kind of taught me to see the game a little bit differently than I had been,” she says. “When you’re on the court you’re making corrections so quickly and trying to do it as you’re playing. But from watching the other girls I was able to make changes because I would hear teammates get told something for six weeks straight. It was a little easier in that when I got back in, I kind of knew what the coaches would tell me.”

“Jenni being in her fifth year, she has so much experience and she’s been so helpful,” Finau says. “I’m just so happy I get to work with these other setters, because they’re amazing.”

For Finau, as a setter, the speed of the game is huge, making quick decisions and then simply getting the ball on time to players that are much faster than what she was used to in high school.

Learning the different tempo was the toughest part, Finau says. “The speed of the game is completely different from what I used to play back in high school. I’m still working on it. It’s a humbling experience, learning the plays, getting better at specific skills besides being a setter, how to get a consistent serve, and improving defense.” Being vocal as a setter is big, but an especially tough challenge for a freshman joining the squad midseason. “Getting better at communication, that’s huge here, and I need to get better at that,” she says.

Finau has discovered that she doesn’t always have to go to the coaches with questions, with experienced setters Jenni Nogueras and Katy Beals willing to lend a hand.

“Jenni being in her fifth year, she has so much experience and she’s been so helpful,” Finau says. “I’m just so happy I get to work with these other setters, because they’re amazing.”

Since DeHoog got back onto the court, her biggest focus was making her teammates better every day. “I play my best in practice so that they’re ready for games,” she says. “So I make sure that I’m doing what I can in practice to get them ready. Especially since I’m a lefty, and they don’t face lefties in practice very often. There are a few lefties in our conference that we have to be ready for. I have to keep getting better for myself, but then play well in practice so that way my teammates are ready too.”

Where some players might get worn out from the daily grind, Tanner can’t wait to get back to it. “I have too much energy, and I’m not spending my energy playing volleyball, so it’s hard to try to find things that make me happy other than working out,” she says.

One of the toughest parts about the first year away from home for Bailey is not having her dog greet her each afternoon. “She’s my best friend. It’s really hard not to come home and cuddle and play with her,” she says. “It’s hard being away from home that first year but I knew it would be. The coaches make it really nice and there are all the resources here that you could need.”

Current Huskies to have redshirted include three of UW’s four seniors: Kylin Muñoz, Jenni Nogueras, and Jenna Orlandini. The three seniors certainly wouldn’t trade this current season for any earlier playing time, and that’s what the three freshmen are keeping in mind.

“The people that redshirted told me that they’re glad they did, and they’re a lot better now because of it,” Tanner says. “It works out for everyone, so I just need to tough it out a little.”

DeHoog says Orlandini talked to her and Tanner about the positives of having that first season to learn and how it helped her as a player. “You get a whole spring under your belt before you see the court. So I know all the advantages, it’s just learning to be patient,” says DeHoog.

Before they know it, opening day of 2014 will be at hand.

“When I think about it,” says DeHoog, “even if it is a year away, I get nervous and excited about when it is going to be my turn to be out there. It’s what you work for.”

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