Joseph High School senior Emma Hite has played almost every position on the volleyball court during her prep career.
One position she hasn’t played, though, is the one that will be her focus when she takes the next step to the collegiate level.
Hite has verbally committed to play volleyball at Treasure Valley Community College as a defensive specialist/libero and will sign her letter of intent to make it official on Thursday.
“Treasure Valley is the place that I best felt I fit,” she said. “I liked the coach, liked the girls, it’s relatively close to home (and) I wanted to be on a campus I felt I belonged on.”
Hite was primarily an attacker and setter during arguably the best two-year run in the history of Joseph volleyball. The Eagles placed third at state during the 2017 season — their best placing ever — and followed with a return trip to the state tournament last fall, winning 47 matches during the two-year span.
But she’ll be in uncharted waters when she joins the Chukars, as she shifts from setting, spiking and blocking to digging and passing as an exclusively back-line player.
“It’s going to be different,” she said of playing defensive specialist/libero. “That’s one of the only positions I have not played in high school, but I think (it) will be a good experience. I’m willing to try something new, even at the collegiate level.”
Hite said the TVCC coach, Erin Mellinger, asked her what she played in high school, then approached her with making a position change.
“(Mellinger) said, ‘How do you feel about being a libero?’” Hite said. “I think the experience will be good for me, and I think I will fit very well.”
Jill Hite, Emma’s mother and head coach at Joseph, said her daughter isn’t unfamiliar with playing defense. But it hasn’t been her main role. She was an attacker and played in the defensive back row as a junior, and was a setter and attacker as a senior.
“She did an amazing job in the back row in the middle,” Jill Hite said.
The coach said the decision for TVCC came together like a puzzle, noting she and the Chukars’ coach share a similar mindset.
“One of the things I’m big on is coaching a whole kid, and that’s what (Mellinger’s) philosophy is too,” Jill Hite said. “They’re not just athletes, but (also) students.”
Jill Hite said versatility on Emma’s part also played into the move to a purely defensive role.
“I think it’s pretty cool that Emma wants to be versatile,” the coach said. “She’s not tall, so we knew if she wanted to play college ball she probably wasn’t going to be an attacker.”
Emma Hite, who was also considering going to Linn Benton Community College for basketball before deciding on TVCC, has been playing volleyball since the first grade when the family lived in Prineville before moving to Joseph when she was in the fifth grade.
She might be changing roles on the team, but Hite has been a team leader for the Eagles, and she believes that will be a strength going forward.
“Leadership and experience,” she said of her strengths. “I’ve played since I was little, and I want to take it to the next level.”
The team’s state tournament trips the last two years have also fueled her desire to continue her volleyball career and see what heights she can reach.
“Making the state tournament my junior and senior year lit the fire in me a bit more,” she said. “I wanted to see what else was out there. I wanted to be pushed a little more.”
And the head coach is hopeful her daughter’s move to college will help future players look at the collegiate level as an option too.
“I hope other girls will see that coming from a small school (there) is a possibility to go on and play (in college),” Jill Hite said.