Four-year varsity Longhorn signs with Elon University
By Ken Jackson
Last year, Haylie Clark was simply the most talented player on a senior-laden Harmony High volleyball squad.
The team returned some pretty impressive talent to line up beside her this year, and she anticipated being one part of the main attraction.
But when early-season injuries changed the lineup very early in the season, Clark was forced to take center stage and run the show.
The Longhorns battled to a 23-5 record, which sounds great and is more impressive when you dig a big deeper — three losses were to Hagerty, and the other to Orlando-area powers Winter Park and Trinity Prep. And it was Clark that kept the show going, all the way to the Class 8A regional semifinals.
She wore the spotlight well.
Clark’s prowess and leadership earned her the nod as Osceola News-Gazette Volleyball Player of the Year for the second year in a row. She led the Longhorns in three big stats: kills (317), aces (66) and assists (388), doing whatever she could and was needed from any spot in the rotation.
But the biggest numbers this season, to Clark, may have been 25-14, 26-24, 22-25, 25-15. That was the score of the regional quarterfinal victory over East Ridge, a match that checked off many boxes for Harmony this season, Clark said.
“It was a major team goal to get past the quarterfinals,” she said. “Losing to Hagerty three times was tough, but it was a good season, it was great to see so many teammates step up.”
The season wrapped up Clark’s four-year Longhorn varsity career. The next step will come at Elon (N.C.) University, where she committed to a year ago and signed a scholarship to play in November.
“The coaching staff there is amazing,” said Clark, who will work exclusively as a setter at Elon — the Phoenix play in the Colonial Athletic Association — while working toward a sports medicine degree. She’ll be fine-tuning her game for the college level with her longtime club team, Orlando-Tampa Volleyball Academy.
One person who won’t be on that Elon coaching staff — or any others going forward — is Jeannie Clark, Haylie’s mother and varsity coach at Harmony. She’s also helped coach in some of Haylie’s club stops, but is calling it a coaching career at the same time she’s sending her daughter off to North Carolina.
“I have no problem sending her up there, she’s in great hands,” Jeannie said. “She’s going to have to compete, but if she’s confident in her skills she’ll be fine. One of the Elon assistants called her a workhorse.”
Haylie was sixth in the state in Class 8A in kills, and 11th in hitting percentage, and earned a spot on the FACA All-Star Team.
“She was a finisher for us and had a role in every spot of the rotation,” Coach Clark said. “She had to fine-tune her consistency, especially in the attack.”
Player of the Year: Haylie Clark (Sr., HHS)
All-county team: Harmony: Nayelis Alvarado (Jr.), Autumn Rogers (Fr.), Bryn Hudson (Jr.), Lyannette Zayas (Sr.). Osceola: Celimar Montanez (Sr.), Allison Palmi (Soph.), Nicole Rodriguez (Sr.), Malina Spencer (Soph.). St. Cloud: Samantha Singleton (Jr.), Abbie Tutor (Soph.). Celebration: Glerysbeth Thillet (Sr.). Gateway: Vanessa Orozco (Sr.). Heritage Christian: Brooke Beaver (Sr.).