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It’s been five years since Haley Hallgren last played indoor volleyball competitively. After co-captaining the Southern California beach volleyball team for two years and winning a national championship as a senior last year, the fifth-year utility player for the Michigan volleyball team has embraced the challenge of starting over in a new sport and on a new team.

“The transition (from beach to indoor volleyball) is definitely difficult,” Hallgren said. “It’s not the same game at all, outside of your fundamental skills.” 

Beach volleyball, played in the sand and with just two players per team, has little in common with its indoor counterpart. Beach relies heavily on sound tactics and individual toughness, given the limitations that sand can cause on an athlete’s physical abilities. Indoors, the game is much more physical and fast-paced than what Hallgren is accustomed to. 

It’s been a steep learning curve for the fifth-year senior, one that has certainly been humbling. After starting at USC, she’s totaled just 16 digs and two assists while appearing in only seven of the Wolverines’ 19 total matches. 

“I was captain my last two years (at USC),” Hallgren said. “Then I come in here and it’s like being a freshman all over again… maybe even worse because I haven’t played (indoors) in five years.”

But it’s not completely about the numbers for Hallgren. As a proven winner and a veteran of the game, Hallgren has found ways to impact this Michigan squad outside of her play on the court.

“I’m trying to bring some of the stuff that I’ve learned from the beach game over,” Hallgren said. “From the mental standpoint of overcoming when you’re struggling and things like that, that’s really where I’m trying to provide more experience.”

Returning to the indoor game has also brought with it some welcomed changes. Hallgren has enjoyed not having to deal with the sand and the energy fans bring inside the arena.

“I think it’s the energy I missed,” Hallgren said. “It’s so nice, you score a point and you can feel the electricity rushing through when you’re playing indoors.”

Despite excelling in both the high school and college ranks as a beach volleyball player, Hallgren always knew that she would come back to the indoor game at some point. 

“Even when I chose to play beach at first,” Hallgren said. “I was always hoping to get to come back for my final year to indoor.”

In addition to the allure of getting back to the indoor game, Hallgren was also drawn to Michigan for its sports management program. She graduated from USC in three years with a B.A. in business administration, and then got her master’s degree in entrepreneurship and innovation last year. Part of Michigan’s appeal was the chance to pursue her master’s. 

“Michigan has the sport management master’s,” Hallgren said. “Which just isn’t a choice at USC… All of my schooling (at USC) was kind of wrapping up. I didn’t have a next step there, and so it just kinda felt like my time there was coming to an end.”

After losing to Illinois last Saturday, the Wolverines sit five games behind first-place Nebraska in the Big Ten. With 10 matches left in the regular season, Hallgren will be counted on to provide her leadership and savvy as the Wolverines head into their final stretch.