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Haley Melby’s dominance at Munster shows bright future awaits at Kentucky

Haley Melby’s dominance at Munster shows bright future awaits at Kentucky
After decommitting from Iowa, Haley Melby found the right fit for her college volleyball career with Kentucky. (Courtesy: @haley.melby/Instagram)

MUNSTER, Ind. (BVM) – In 2019, Haley Melby thought her volleyball future was all set. As just a sophomore, she was thriving on the court at Munster High School, and had already committed to play volleyball at a Power 5 program in Iowa.

“I kind of stumbled upon Iowa in a sense,” Melby said. “Of course I know it, I’m a Big Ten kid growing up in Indiana. My mom kind of said, ‘Hey would you want to go to the Iowa camp?’ And I said, ‘Why would I go to the Iowa camp?’ But we ended up going and I fell in love … I just really liked it there.”

Melby was highly sought after in her initial recruiting process that began in eighth grade. She went to plenty of camps and saw plenty of schools, but Iowa was the one that stuck out. However, just two months after her commitment, former coach Bond Shymansky was let go from the program due to an NCAA rules violation. 

Assistant Vicki Brown – who was the one who initially began recruiting Melby – took over, but a tough 6-24 season led to her dismissal as well last fall. 

“This past November, Coach Vicki had been let go,” Melby said. “I decided to go on my official visit there, kind of get a feel for everything. Just with everything that had gone on, I just kind of thought that regardless of what my decision was going to be, it would be a smart idea to look at other schools.”

Haley Melby originally committed to play college volleyball at Iowa back in 2019. (Courtesy: Haley Melby)

In late December, Jim Barnes was named the new head volleyball coach for the Hawkeyes. Melby got to have several conversations with Barnes, and believes he is poised for success in Iowa City. 

However, after so much turmoil, Iowa wasn’t the right fit for Melby anymore. She began exploring other options, and turned to a school she had conversations with back in the initial stages of her recruiting process: the University of Kentucky.

“I had had a couple of conversations with Coach [Craig] Skinner,” Melby said. “It was awesome, I always knew I liked Coach Skinner a lot. When I decided to open up my recruiting process, Coach Skinner was basically the first coach I reached out to. I knew that I loved him, I loved his program. Up until that point, I had never been to Kentucky. I got to go up in January for an official visit, and the day I came home was the day I told my parents, ‘I want to commit.’”

The coaching staff, team and campus all sold Melby on becoming a Wildcat. Soon, she will begin the next chapter of an athletic journey that began at a very young age.

While growing up, Melby played a host of different sports, which is no surprise given her family background. Both of the volleyball standout’s parents played sports in college, with her mom playing basketball at Northern Illinois, and her dad playing football at The Citadel. 

“I actually started playing volleyball because my mom was a great athlete and she played volleyball and basketball in high school,” Melby said. “Ultimately, she decided to play basketball in college, but she still loved volleyball. So she put me in volleyball as early as I could play. I stuck with it and it became my favorite sport.”

Melby’s mom, Dianna, was also recruited to play volleyball in college, so she has been able to give helpful insight to her daughter throughout her own unique recruiting process. So too have Haley’s brothers, Joseph – a former football player at Indiana State – and Will – a current baseball player at Triton College.

“My brother Will is two years older than me and baseball recruiting is a little bit later than women’s volleyball recruiting, so in my original recruiting process, we kind of got to do it at the same time,” Haley explained. “He was awesome. We were going through the same thing at the same time, I had someone to bounce everything off of.”

With good athletic genes in her family, Haley thrived as soon as she took the volleyball court. Since she was 12, she competed with Michio Chicago Volleyball Academy which has taken her game to the next level.

Haley Melby was able to take her game to the next level while playing for Michio Chicago Volleyball Academy. (Courtesy: Haley Melby)

“It was amazing, I absolutely love Michio,” Haley said. “It was a great environment, I made some great friends.”

A competitive nature, high skill level and seeing her family’s prior success motivated Haley to take her volleyball career to the college level even before her high school years began. However, her time at Munster only vindicated the type of player Kentucky will be getting.

As a freshman, Haley had the chance to learn from current USC volleyball player and then Munster senior Madison Horin, and contributed to a Mustangs team that made it all the way to regionals.

While her team would fall in the same round the following season, Haley continued to develop into a first team all-conference player. However, her real breakout would come in her junior season, perhaps the best of her high school career.

In 2020, Haley had 358 kills, 45.5 blocks and 61 aces, becoming a Junior All-Star, first team all-state selection, and The Times of Northwest Indiana Volleyball Player of the Year. 

“Winning Times player of the year that year, it meant a ton,” Haley said. “One because my mom was Times athlete of the year when she was in high school so it was really cool that I got to follow in her footsteps a little bit there. And then just looking to see everyone in our area that are amazing volleyball players that are going to do huge things in college. For me to get it, it just showed that everything was working out and hard work was paying off.”

However, the true highlight of the season was leading the Mustangs to the state finals for the first time in school history.

Haley Melby helped lead Munster to its first-ever state finals appearance in 2020. (Courtesy: Haley Melby)

“That was the coolest thing to happen in my high school volleyball experience,” Haley said. “As a team, we were just extremely close, had a ton of fun, and everyone just wanted so badly to get to where we were … Obviously, we didn’t get the outcome we wanted. But it’s kind of one of those things where the second the game is over, we kind of just looked at each other and it stunk that we didn’t win, but we were just sad that the season was over and not that we lost the game. I think that’s a really special thing to happen when you lose a state final.”

The outside hitter’s senior season was even better individually as she racked up 483 kills, 241 digs and 48 aces. For her career, she compiled over 1,300 kills, averaging 3.4 kills per set across her last three seasons.

Repeating as Times player of the year in 2021, Haley was again dominant. Although her team suffered another tough regional loss, it was still a bright ending to a tremendous high school career.

“I couldn’t have really asked for anything more from my senior year,” Haley said. “We had nine seniors on our team, we all grew up together, and we got to have our last season together. We all won four sectional championships, and we had great success throughout last season. 

“My four years of high school were something really, really special and I’ll be able to carry that with me.”

Haley will not only be able to take plenty away from her time at Munster, but the Mustangs’ program is also changed for the better thanks to her and a tremendous 2022 class that won 123 games in their four years together.

“I know sometimes high school sports are not as competitive, but I think that the culture at Munster has changed so much to make everything competitive, whether it’s coming to practice, summer workouts or games,” Haley said. “Through my four years I made amazing friendships, not only with people that I was friends with outside of volleyball, but also with people that I never met until volleyball. I hope that continues.”

Over the next several years, Haley hopes her impact on the sport does not stop. Even beyond her next four years playing at Kentucky, the 6-foot-1 outside hitter wants to keep playing, potentially pursuing a career overseas. 

Haley Melby is hoping to keep Kentucky’s run of success going once she joins the Wildcats next fall. (Courtesy: Haley Melby)

“Recently, I kind of realized that four years doesn’t seem like enough for my volleyball career,” Haley said. “I think after college I would like to see if I can play overseas.”

Beyond her playing career, Haley may also consider coaching the sport. But before any of that ensues, her immediate future will take her to Lexington, Kentucky, where she is bound for more success.

Joining a program that has won five straight SEC titles, made 17 straight NCAA tournament appearances and won a national championship in 2020, Haley is excited for the future, and is ready to continue the winning culture Kentucky has developed

“My goals are to just do as much as I can for the team, help out in any way I can,” Haley said. “Just do anything and everything I need to do to keep the program where it’s been at.”