Bray finding footing with the Golden Eagles after redshirting last season

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Photo by Keifer Russell

Hattie Bray goes up for a kill in Marquette’s 3-0 win over Illinois State Sept. 18 at the Al McGuire Center.

A lot has changed in a year for sophomore middle blocker Hattie Bray. After not playing a single set last year, Bray has been inserted into the starting lineup for the No. 19 ranked Marquette volleyball team.

However, one thing that hasn’t changed for Bray is what she thinks about before every game: what hairstyle she is going to put on.

“Last year I would do crazy hairstyles that I didn’t really care what they looked like, they were just fun,” Bray said. “Everyone (on the team) was like ‘Are you going to bring back the hairstyles this year?’ and I was like ‘Guys I never had to play a volleyball game with you, I don’t think they’re going to stay.’”

While Bray said she wasn’t necessarily thinking about the things she should have, thinking about her hairstyle helped her relax heading into her first college game against then-No. 11 Kentucky.

“Not thinking about like ‘Oh my god am I going to remember the scouting report and who does what,’” Bray said. “I think thinking about the little things of what hairstyle am I going to do kinda helped relax (me) and just really focus on being there (in the moment).”

Bray finished her collegiate debut with six kills and one block while hitting .235% in the Golden Eagles 3-2 upset win over Kentucky.

Bray said it wasn’t until after the game that she realized what she had accomplished.

“So, I called them (my parents) after and they were like ‘You should have seen it, we got all these texts from people watching the game, everyone’s like “Look at Hattie she’s finally playing,”” Bray said. “I think that was the part where I was like wow, I really have kind of made it.”

One of the happiest people in the building for Bray during her debut was none other than one of her best friends and teammates in junior Carsen Murray.

“She’s worked so hard, she comes in the gym, gets all the extra work and comes in for lessons,” Murray said. “It’s almost like a proud mom moment, I’m just so proud because I know how badly she wants it and everyday I see her getting better everyday.”

Playing on that big of a stage was quite different during her days at Wautoma High School where the seating capacity was much smaller.

“(There were) two bleachers on either side (of the court) and we would get at least 100 fans at a good rivalry game,” Bray said.

Bray wrote a few records in her time with the Hornets. Along with leading Wautoma to a 2020 regional championship and earning back-to-back All-Conference First Team honors, Bray set the school record in kills (977) and blocks (234).

After her time was over at Wautoma, she decided to sign with the Marquette Golden Eagles.

“I talked to a few other schools and I had a handful of offers but what I really liked about Marquette was the coach’s commitment to the program,” Bray said. “I also just wanted to go to a bigger school, I mean (Marquette) isn’t huge, but it still feels big compared to where I came from. I had 400 kids in my high school, anything is bigger than that. It just felt like the right match.”

That moment to play at the college level would wait as both Bray and head coach Ryan Theis decided that it would be best if Bray, like many of the other first-years from 2021, should redshirt her first year.

“In [Bray’s] case, it seemed to make sense between Savannah (Rennie), Nastia (Anastasija Svetnik), Carsen (Murray) and Nuess (Claire Nuessmeier), there was a lot of middles to just spend a year training and she (Bray) didn’t really hesitate,” Theis said. “We brought it up to all of them and I think she was in my office within a minute or two and said ‘I’d like to do that if that’s OK.'”

Bray said that while in the beginning of the season it wasn’t difficult to stay on the sidelines and not play, by the time the postseason arrived it became a real challenge.

“Coming into college, I was like, ‘Oh I’m not going to play as much because I’m a freshman.’ We’ve got a big team of super dominant seniors and I just kinda had that mindset,” Bray said. “But then I never really felt super like ‘I want to be out there on the court’ until the end of conference (play) and then the NCAA tournament. I was like ‘I would pay so much money to be out there on the court right now.”

Over the course of her redshirt season, Theis put Bray into individual workouts and had her play a little bit more in practice for her to stay engaged.

“We gave her a lot of one-on-one attention or we’d have her and two other players in (workouts) and on a game day we’re trying not to have our starting rotation jump a bunch if at all at a practice and if kids aren’t playing or red-shirting we find those as great opportunities to get kids better,” Theis said.

After the Golden Eagles lost to Dayton in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, Bray went into the off-season working not only just on being a middle blocker but also a right-side hitter due to the flux of the roster at that point.

“Coach Theis had me working a little bit in the right side too, so I would do middle stuff and right side because we had no clue what we were going to do with the personnel we had,” Bray said. “I had a feeling (in my head) that okay, I need to work hard and just figure out what position he (Theis) wants me to play in and go from there.”

Even though she has put in a lot of hard work and accomplished quite a bit already in her young career, Bray said she wants to accomplish a lot more.

“Definitely want to keep growing as a player on the court for the rest of the season,” Bray said. “The ultimate goal is bringing home another (Big East) championship, but to go even further than that because we had a regular season championship (last year) but now we need to get that tournament championship because Creighton has had it for way too many years.”

This story was written by Jackson Gross. He can be reached at Jackson.gross@marquette.edu or on Twitter @JacksonGrossMU.