Rookie gets early CAA recognition

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Rookie gets early CAA recognition

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By Ysabelle Kempe, news staff

Inhaling deeply, Hannah Boyd stands at the net. All around her are distractions – girls drilling, coaches discussing tactics, loud music echoing off the walls of the gym. But Boyd’s eyes are on the ball. An intense focus washes over her face, despite the fact that she has been at practice since 5:45 a.m.

Her opponent serves and the ball floats over the net. A passer on Boyd’s side gets two forearms on the ball and it bounces up, coming down directly on the setter’s prepared hands. Boyd and the ball move in tandem towards each other, as if pulled by magnets. As their paths collide, Boyd swings her arm down. The ball slams onto the ground on the other side of the net.

As soon as she hears the slam, Boyd relaxes. She turns to her teammates, smiling sheepishly as she receives yelled praises and affectionate pats on the back. But as soon as the ball is back in play, she goes stone-faced and zeroes in on her job.

Boyd is a freshman on Northeastern’s volleyball team and recent CAA Rookie of the Week. At the time of day when most students grumble about their 8 a.m. class, she has already been up for hours, working on her match.

Boyd grew up in the Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas. She credits her love for sports to her father, who played college basketball and encouraged Boyd to play basketball through her youth. When Boyd turned 13, her mother recommended she try volleyball at the YMCA, a suggestion that changed the course of Boyd’s young life.

After one time stepping onto the court, she was hooked. But she never expected volleyball to take her to a Division I program.

“It’s a very delicate balance between the physical aspect and the mental aspect,” Boyd said in her soft southern drawl. “In most sports you can kind of get by just having physical abilities and being able to overpower your opponent, but not in volleyball. It’s a sisterhood between you and your teammates because you really have to rely on your setter to get the set and your passer to get the pass and your hitter to get the kill.”

Almost as abruptly as Boyd’s volleyball career began, it seemed to end. In eighth grade, Boyd had a bout of mono, putting her in the hospital for two months. While her friends participated in end-of-middle-school festivities, half of Boyd’s hair fell out and she lost 40 pounds. Having led an active life, she said it was devastating to spend six months on bedrest.

As Boyd said, volleyball is a mental game. When your team is behind by ten points and you feel like you’ve made a string of mistakes, it is easy to go belly-up and let your opponent take the match. But Boyd did not become the high-level player she is by giving in to those temptations. After recovering from her hospitalization, Boyd worked twice as hard to get her old strength back plus some.

“I know this sounds funny because I was just a ninth grader, but I was working out four hours a day. I had a goal, I was going to play college volleyball,” Boyd said. “I just love volleyball so much. Whether it was lower-level or higher-level, depending on how I developed as a player, I just knew it was what I wanted to do, so I put in a load of extra work.”

Since then, Boyd has had chronic mono, but as her history shows, sickness is hard-pressed to stop her. She played volleyball all through high school, both in-season and off-season. Her coach led both her high school team and her club team and she cites him as a key figure in her rise.

“He wasn’t just complacent in me being tall and being able to outpower the opponents, he really wanted me to become more technical and to become a better passer, which is a part of my match that I’ve been working really hard on in college,” Boyd said.

Although Boyd is a student-athlete, she claims she was not athletic at all.

“I’ve always been tall and big and goofy-footed. I had to work so hard to become good at volleyball just because I don’t have that natural athleticism that some people are lucky enough to be naturally born with,” Boyd said. “I felt like I’ve had to put in twice the amount of work as people who are naturally athletic.”

Standing at 6 feet 2 inches tall and with 239 kills under her belt, Boyd has proven she’s a force to reckon with in her still-young collegiate career. At a match against University of New Hampshire on Sept. 11, 2018, Boyd made 32 kills. Since the beginning of this season, she has earned her team 252 points.

Aside from her height, those who know Boyd say her attitude and maturity set her apart.

“She’s got a strong will and a strong desire to improve,” says Ken Nichols, head coach of the Northeastern women’s volleyball team. “She is willing to have the hard conversations very often, be it about herself or as us as a team. She’s wise beyond her years..”

Although volleyball may be Boyd’s current claim to fame, she doesn’t want her on-court success to define her. She strives to be a wholesome person. To her, that means spending time with her family and five cats, as well as reading her Southern Baptist devotionals every night.

“Some student-athletes only identify as an athlete. I’ve been trying to break that stereotype because I know that I am more. I really do try to be the best person I can be, that’s one of the more important things in life,” says Boyd. “If you’re not a good person, what’s the point? I know it sounds cheesy, but it’s true.”