Block returns to Valley Fields for chapter two

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Hailey Block (7) goes to kick the soccer ball. (Photo courtesy of Southeast Missouri State.)

For many Marquette fans, it is not uncommon to see sophomore Hailey Block on the sideline of women’s soccer games at Valley Fields. Now they’ll be looking for her in an actual uniform, not just handing out balls to the players.

Growing up, Block served as a ball girl for Marquette women’s soccer games, but now the summer transfer midfielder will be getting prepared to actually play in the matches.

“I just remember looking up to those girls like they’re my hero,” Block said. “I’d hand them the ball and I’d be freaking out about it. I wanted to do everything perfect, everything pristine, without any mistakes and it’s just kind of crazy that I get to be in that position now as a player.” 

The Grafton, Wisconsin, native said she would keep her eye on one particular position unit every game. 

“I definitely kept my eye on the midfielders,” Block said. “I was always told to kind of watch my position while I was that ball girl to kind of see how they worked as a team and how they moved on the field.”

Head coach Frank Pelaez said Block’s transition from ball girl to member of the program adds something more to the story. 

“Being able to play somewhere where you were a ball girl and maybe have your grandparents and your parents come watch you play, to me you play with a little bit more (energy),” Pelaez said. “You’re doing it with some pride, you’re doing it to make other people smile and make them happy.” 

Block spent her first year of college eligibility at Southeastern Missouri. With the Redhawks, Block was incredibly successful early on, being named the Ohio Valley Conference Freshman of the Year and an All-Ohio Valley Conference Second Team Honoree.

“It definitely kind of showed that a lot of hard work and stuff does pay off,” Block said. “I kind of put that as a goal in the beginning of the season for me to do that, so winning it was really awesome.” 

Block started 12 of 17 games last year at Southeast Missouri State. She said along with keeping herself accountable, putting herself around the upperclassman and remaining hungry played a significant role in her starting time.

After one season down at Cape Girardeau, Block realized she wanted a change.  

“I wanted a program to push me academically, but also as a player on the field,” Block said. “I wanted that seriousness and (wanted to) surround myself with players that could make me better as a player and a person.” 

She found that through the program she grew up watching as a ball girl. 

“She was looking for a challenge,” Pelaez said. “I asked her, ‘Why do you want to come here?’ and she goes, ‘Because Marquette has always been great and I’ve always wanted to be a part of that.’ She wants to challenge herself with the BIG EAST. She wants to be able to go against some of the best competition in the country.” 

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Player of the Year said while away, something was missing — her family and Milwaukee. 

“I am very close with my family. They have been able to support me even in my journey to Missouri. They were at a ton of games,” Block said. “I love this community and a lot of people in this community and I get nothing but love back, and so again that piece of me was missing with my family, with other people in the community and I wanted that.” 

Even though Pelaez was unable to meet and get to know Block in person due to COVID-19, he said he got creative. Along with assistant coaches Steve Bode and Erin Scott, he would talk to Block every now and then on Zoom meetings. 

Along with Zoom meetings, Pelaez said he talked to numerous people to get to know the type of person she is. One person in particular was Block’s high school principal, whose daughter plays softball with Pelaez’s 10-year-old daughter. 

“We got to talking and (I) figured out who she was. He couldn’t stop saying good things about her as a person and as a leader,” Pelaez said. “It was pretty funny when I told her I met with the principal, and she was like, ‘Why would you talk to my principal three years later?’ For a principal to know an athlete like that the way he did, I thought, ‘Well, she must have really stuck out.’”

Prior to SEMO, Block played at Grafton High School, where she finished with 94 goals and 26 assists over four years, finishing her career as the leading scorer in program history. 

Unlike most of her teammates, Block is commuting to Marquette from home, which is around a 25-minute commute. Pelaez said this is something he advised his new midfielder to do. 

“I looked at it, as this fall, there was so much uncertainty on how we’re going to proceed. We all have a major game plan, but there’s so much uncertainty every week,” Pelaez said. “This fall was not to, it sounds so weird, but you’re not here to make new friends because of COVID-19. You’re here to know your team as much as you possibly can. If there’s a semester you can commute and be with your family that you haven’t been with for a long time, (here it is).” 

Even though Block is joining a new program during a challenging time and commuting, she has still taken advantage of getting to know her new team. 

“It has been exceptional. We’ve been able to set up Zoom calls to get to know each other more,” Block said. “I have been able to go down to campus and run with a girl here and there and even meet following the rules, socially distant, to see the girls face-to-face and talk to them and communicate with them.” 

Block mentioned that senior defender Maddie Monticello has been someone she has gone to for help during her transition. 

“She has been a really big help to me. I trust her with asking questions and knowing that I’ll get a response back,” Block said. “She’s been really a blessing just along with everyone else.” 

As the Golden Eagles began team workouts last week, Pelaez said it has been extremely exciting to see Block compete and fight for a starting spot, as she is the first player he recruited without watching play in-person. 

“Too many players in this country are just given so many things so early without having to earn things, and she wants to earn something,” Pelaez said. “That’s what I want to build this program on. I want to build this program on kids who want to bust their butt, who want to be proud of where they’re at and just be a team and earn their way through college because you’ve got four years to do great things.” 

This article was written by John Leuzzi. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @JohnLeuzziMU