Ball State sophomoreâ€™s play outshadows her voice
The Daily News
Such is the case with Ball State redshirt sophomore Hayley “Tiger” Benson. The quiet, unassuming Benson stands at 6-foot-4 and is tied with Lauren Grant for tallest on the team, though she can be quiet as a church mouse.
Ball State volleyball head coach Steve Shondell didn’t give Benson her nickname because of her fierce play, though it would make sense.
Benson has tallied 32 kills and only one error all season, and holds the second highest attacking percentage on the team at .517, although current leader Catie Fredrich has just one attack attempt compared to Benson’s 60.
Shondell awarded Benson her nickname hoping it would motivate her. A middle blocker and opposite hitter, Benson’s play sometimes dwarfs her voice.
Engaged in nearly every play, middle blockers must be aggressive and unafraid of confrontation.
“I gave her that name to try to bring the tiger out of her” Shondell said. “She’s so quiet and reserved; I wanted to give her a name to make her more dominating and assertive.”
Although some players embrace letting their play do the talking, being vocal can breed confidence both in the player and in the team.
For Benson, the nickname was unusual but grew on her. For an unassuming person, the nickname “tiger” seemed like more of a surprise and shock than the meaning Shondell intended.
“I’ve never been called tiger before, so at first it was a little different,” Benson said. “Now I’m so used to it that I immediately answer to it.”
Last season, Benson was playing in her initial season and saw action in just 54 sets and only amassed 65 kills while committing 33 errors.
The drastic difference shows the steps forward Shondell’s soft-spoken tiger took during the offseason.
He said he’s seen growth in Benson on the court and thinks the nickname may have played a role.
“I was hoping it would bring some fiery personality out of her,” Shondell said. “I think it’s starting to pay off.”
To Benson, the nickname wasn’t just something to be used as motivation. As a middle blocker, Benson is planted in the front row, in the center of the lineup.
Nearly every play, Benson is leaping to block spikes from the opposing players, or throwing down kills of her own. The position lends itself to being aggressive, as she is usually face-to-face with her opponents every time she jumps.
Being constantly engaged with net play gave the nickname a new connotation for her besides being more verbal.
“Part of why he [Shondell] gave that name to me is because I prowl the net”, Benson said. “It’s really not a bad nickname.”
Nicknames are typically inside jokes, but Shondell’s reaches beyond a joke into a serious attempt to pull ferocity out of Benson, which showed during her team’s weekend road trip to Tampa.
Unless a player likes the nickname, it isn’t likely to make an impact, doing what Shondell hopes it would.
The ultimate decision comes down to whether or not Benson likes the moniker and wants it to stick.
“I’m not going to complain,” she said. “Tigers are pretty fierce animals.”