Finding joy in soccer, theatre to honor late sister

Haley Hill, second from left, rehearses as a Laker Girl in Eastern Oregon University’s May production of “Spamalot”. Hill, whose personality is influenced by her late sister, finds passion in acting, singing, writing and playing soccer. (Emily Adair/The Observer)

One Eastern Oregon University senior has shown leadership on the soccer field and confidence on the stage, but she says her personality hasn’t always been as bold.

Haley Hill was first interested in EOU for her chance to continue her love of soccer.

“I’ve always been an athlete,” Hill said. “I’d played soccer from the time I was 5 years old through high school.”

Hill, from Boise, Idaho, started in 15 games as a freshman, according to EOU’s soccer roster. The midfielder finished out her senior season averaging one shot per game.

“As a midfielder, you’ve got to be involved in the game,” she said. “Talk to anyone, they’ll say we run the most. We have to cover that section. Goals don’t happen without our assistance. You control the pace of the game. You’re pretty vital.”

The journey from her first season to her last, however, was not an easy one.

“I’ve had four coaches in four years,” Hill said. “The first one, who recruited me, left a week in.”

Hill still wanted to stay for the program, but she had also found another reason to continue at EOU.

“I love La Grande,” she said. “I’m really interested in the outdoors. I can go hiking and rock climbing. I would have stayed here anyway.”

Then something happened that tested her will.

“My sister, Shauna, died in a car accident when she was 16,” Hill said. “That was three years ago.”

Since then, Hill said, she has seen herself transform.

“Before I lost my sister, I was pretty quiet,” she said. “I was sort of a follower. But my resilience turned me into a leader.”

It was that same resilience that kept Hill at school, despite multiple suggestions that she should take some time off. She viewed her college education as an important accomplishment, and she wasn’t about to give that up.

She did, however, go in a slightly different direction.

“I think I needed an avenue for everything I was feeling,” Hill said. “I had taken a theatre class as a general education requirement, and I loved it. I have auditioned for almost every play that’s happened since I started.”

Hill, who is a theatre and English double-major, started out in music. She performed vocal solos for the Grande Ronde Symphony’s April chamber concert and its concert season finale earlier this month.

Hill has performed in the theatre department’s 10 Minute Play festivals and its productions of “Les Miserables,” “Proof,” “Some Girl(s),” “King Lear” and — most recently — “Spamalot.”

For her creative writing capstone project, Hill chose to focus on something close to home.

“I’m working on a memoir,” she said. “It’s five pieces on the stages of grief.”

Although Hill’s grief has inspired many aspects of her life, she is not consumed by it.

“I feel like it’s my job to crack a joke and make sure everyone is OK,” she said. “My mom says I’m too goofy sometimes. And my coach was hard on us, so it helped that we were able to make jokes.”

Hill said that theatre is an enjoyable field, but people can’t always be lighthearted.

“We all have those bad days, or we have something going on,” Hill said. “I take it upon myself to be sure people are OK.”

While Hill’s sense of humor and selflessness are entirely her own, she does credit her sister as a major influence in her life.

“She was always smiling more than me,” she said. “I want to be what she would be in my place.”

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