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Volleyball skills earn Williams college opportunity
Hailey Williams (seated, center) is flanked at Tuesday's signing ceremony by her father, Dax, and mother, Amber. Assistant coach Amy Duke (left) and head coach Brittany Lein stand behind her. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff

SPRINGFIELD -- The love of Hailey Williams' sports life has blossomed into a beautiful opportunity.

On Tuesday, Williams, a lanky middle and outside hitter for Effingham County's volleyball team, signed a national letter of intent to attend Florida Southern in Lakeland, Fla.

Williams recently led the Rebels to the Class AAAAAA Elite Eight.

"I've played volleyball for about four years," Williams said. "I was introduced to it by my friends from Savannah. They told me about it and I decided to give it a shot."

Williams proved to be a natural and decided to play volleyball for Veritas Academy, a Christ-centered school in Savannah.

"I found that I loved and it decided to play for Club Savannah. I knew it was the sport that I wanted to play," she said.

Effingham County Athletic Director Matt Huntley envisioned another sport for Williams when she and her volleyball-playing sister, Hannah, arrived at his school last year. He used to be the Rebels' softball coach.

"I tried to recruit her and her sister very heavily," he said. "Every time I'd see them, I tried to win them over to the softball side of things. It didn't work, and now I see why after watching (Hailey) play volleyball. She is extremely talented on the court and as a student in the school.

"We are extremely proud of her and excited to see what she does at the next level."

Effingham County assistant coach Amy Duke is confident Williams will be a college success.

"We love her and are very sad to see her go, but we are very excited about the opportunities that lie ahead at Florida Southern," Duke said. "The Moccasins are getting not only a great volleyball player, but a fine young woman. I'm sure she will represent Effingham County well there as she has here."

Williams said she has enjoyed her time with the Rebels immensely.

"The volleyball team really welcomed me," she said. "It was really great having them. It was like having a bunch of sisters all the time so I was really comfortable.."

Willams expects to feel comfortable at Florida Southern, too.

"I've always had a connection to Florida because that's where I was born," she said. "I have family there and it's a beautiful place. It's just great."

Williams hopes to make an immediate impact for the Moccasins.

"It'll be a lot of hard work, but I definitely think it can be done if I put my mind to it," she said.