Haley Hester (right in white) dives for a loose ball during a Palmetto Christian Academy girls basketball game this past season.
Palmetto Christian Academy needed to fill its volleyball roster. Haley Hester, an eighth grader at the time, fit the physical criteria.
“Because I was tall and PCA needed somebody on the varsity team,” Hester, who stands 5-feet-10-inches tall, said. “So, I started playing.”
The Eagles found a player but got much more than that. Five varsity letters later, Hester is the first Palmetto Christian student to receive an athletic scholarship. She’ll attend North Greenville and compete for a prominent role on a Crusaders team welcoming nine incoming freshmen in the fall.
Hester garnered plenty of volleyball accolades, including all-state, South Carolina/Georgia all-star game selection and SCISA 1A Player of the Year. But, she also played on the basketball, tennis and track and field – playing four years with each program. Hester has 17 varsity letters and would have gotten No. 18, but a knee injury kept her from playing soccer in the spring.
Miranda Stanley, Palmetto Christian’s girls basketball coach, called Hester a “tireless worker” and praised her commitment to not just the basketball program, but to the school. “She selflessly gives to others, challenges the teammates around her and sets an example for others to follow,” Stanley said. “She is the glue that held our team together.”
Lewis Seabrook, assistant coach for a multitude of Eagle programs, had similar high praise, referring to her as perhaps the school’s best ever volleyball player. “She has always been willing to do whatever it takes to help her team, and maybe more importantly, help her teammates, particularly the younger ones,” Seabrook said. “She has a determination that I have rarely seen in kids her age.”
Hester decided on North Greenville after picking from specific criteria. “I had three main things I wanted to look for in a college: where God wanted me to be, the volleyball team was good and it was a small Christian school,” she said. “God really showed me North Greenville was that place. When I visited, I felt at ease.”
The Crusaders compete on the NCAA Division 2 level in Conference Carolinas. League opponents include Belmont Abbey, Pfieffer, Barton and Limestone. The volleyball team begins its preseason schedule with a match Aug. 24.
Last season was North Greenville’s best in program history, finishing 19-16 overall. The Crusaders advanced to the semifinals of the conference tournament.
“Haley is a quality addition to our volleyball roster and will add depth to our front row positions,” coach Greg Mosely said in a news release on the athletic department’s website. “She a versatile player with good technique and will be an asset to our program.”
Hester knows she has responsibility to continue to represent Palmetto Christian in her future endeavors. She said being the only female student in school history to receive an athletic scholarship “means a lot. I’ve been at PCA since first grade,” she added. “The athletic director (Jim Daniel) even tells me all the time how me and my group of friends that just graduated started the athletic program at PCA. It’s really cool and an honor.”
Her involvement stretched beyond athletics, though. She also traveled with East Cooper Baptist Church and Palmetto Christian for mission trips in the United States and overseas and is a leader with the Worship Team and Middle School Ministry.
“It was always something after school until the second week of May, because that’s when track ended,” she said of her schedule. “During the fall, it was a lot more busy because I would have school, volleyball, tennis and then I’d help out with the church, so I wouldn’t be home until 10 o’clock. I love being busy.”
She said she plans to get involved with Fellowship of Christian Athletes at North Greenville and find a new church and help with its youth ministries.
The near Palmetto Christian lifer isn’t worried about the four-hour change of scenery next year. “I don’t think so,” she said about getting homesick, “because my first semester, I’m going to be very busy. I like being home, but I’m never home anyway so it’s just one of those things.”