On a young, talented Razorback volleyball team that has 12 underclassmen, one freshman stands out above the others.
Hailey Dirrigl was the No. 62 recruit in the nation before she came to the Razorbacks, according to Razorback Athletics. She played for Desert Vista High School in Phoenix, Arizona, and led the team to two Class 6A state championships. She originally committed to Arizona State University to play under coach Jason Watson, but she followed him to Arkansas after he had accepted the head coaching job at the UofA.
“I am happy for her, and I am pleased with what she is doing,” Watson said. “I mean she is this incredibly conscious student-athlete, and her success is certainly attributed to that.”
Dirrigl had always played on the right side of the court for the Razorbacks, but Watson decided that he wanted to switch things up and move her to the left side of the court.
The Razorbacks thought that Dirrigl, who is an outside hitter, was having a wonderful season and that they wanted to put her in a position that she could have greater influence on the outcome of some of the matches, Watson said.
“It feels great to be able to contribute to the team as much as I can,” Dirrigl said.
Dirrigl hopes that she can help the team and give them a greater chance of winning, she said.
When a player switches their position, their coaching switches as well. They have to change up their game and be able to see it from a different point of view than before, Watson said.
“I have had more coaching than when I was on the right side,” Dirrigl said. “I pass now, and I have to do a different style of blocking and hitting.”
Passing for Dirrigl isn’t a skill that comes naturally. Prior to coming to the UofA, she had not been given these opportunities and has had to work harder with a more steep learning curve, Watson said.
Since Dirrigl was moved to the left side, the Razorbacks have gone 5-2 after starting the season 12-6. The Razorbacks really like the switch and are excited about what Dirrigl can accomplish there, Watson said.
“Her ceiling is limitless in my eyes,” sophomore setter Rachel Rippee said. “She has impressed all of us so much since the minute she came in. She has been doing whatever we need her to do.”
Dirrigl is second on the team for total kills with 267. She is only behind redshirt senior Pilar Victoria who has 556. She also is second on the team for kills per set with an average of 2.72.
On Nov. 5, Arkansas played against the Texas A&M Aggies. Dirrigl showcased her talent with 15 kills and a hitting percentage of exactly .200. She helped the team, coming in second for total kills, on getting its first home win in program history against the Aggies.
Arkansas currently sits at 7-6 in conference play with an overall record of 17-8 and a Ranking Percentage Index of 48, which is a ranking based on wins and losses compared to other teams in their division, according to the NCAA’s Division I volleyball website. The Razorbacks have five games remaining, and if they keep playing like they have been, they will be in a good position to make the NCAA tournament, which takes the top 64 teams.
Arkansas’ next game will be at 6 p.m. Friday against No. 4 Florida in Gainesville.