Volleyball’s Hannah Haver overcomes career-threatening ACL injuries


In an age of mildly inappropriate cliches, let me add another to the list.

Volleyball’s senior middle hitter Hannah Haver is a warrior, period the end.

Cliche as it may sound, there is no other way to put coming back from two ACL reconstructive surgeries on both her right and left knee in consecutive years. It has left people like her coach in awe.

Senior middle hitter Hannah Haver poises herself for a serve against rival Walsh University Sept. 25. In the four-set victory Haver helped ensured victory with a match-high 16 kills. (Photo courtesy of Andy Smith)

“I’ll be honest with you, I am astounded,” said head volleyball coach Tanya Hockman. “I mean I was amazed after the first knee surgery and the second one was more difficult. But true to character she has done everything she has needed to do to be game ready.”

This isn’t one of those cases where she has come back a shell of herself either as she recently received the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) South Division Player of the Week Oct. 23.

“It takes a lot to come back from one knee surgery let alone two so we can definitely look up to her and what she has accomplished,” said senior setter Jackie Schwamberger. “Also I know a lot of the team admires the fact that she got GLIAC player of the week. We are really proud of her because she has been doing really well and she deserves it.”

Her struggle and climb back

Despite her award and her integral part in leading the Pioneers to an 18-10 record overall (11-7 GLIAC) this season, not everything has been easy for Haver.

It has been a long road back since Haver collided with an Urbana University opponent underneath the net on Nov. 5, 2011. As soon as it happened she knew her left knee was torn.

“I was up at the net and when I came down I was trying to get the ball and a girl from the other side, her knee, hit the side of my knee. I felt everything kind of shift throughout my knee and then I went down,” Haver said. “I pretty much knew I tore my ACL.”

The pain for her left knee injury was far more excrutating than the pain she suffered with her right ACL tear. As Haver can recall it was the worst of her life.

“The second was really painful,” Haver said. “The first one actually wasn’t normal. It didn’t swell up or anything and usually it does. I think it was because it was only a partial tear of the ACL and this one was probably more full because it did swell up…The initial just going down was close to a 10 [on a pain scale of 1-10].”

The second one was also emotionally more painful as well, Haver said. This one left her a bit more down in the dumps as she asked big questions like why.

“At the beginning it was very hard just being like how could this happen to me again, and why. You question why does this have to happen to me, why does this have to happen twice and what does this mean for my future?” Haver said.

Her teammate, and roommate last year as well, Schwamberger said she could remember Haver being more down about the second tear as well. However, she tried to cheer her up with some of the guilty pleasures of life.

A close up look on Haver’s injured knee a few days after the tear occurred. (Photo courtesy of Hannah Haver)

“There was a little slight depression problem, but we tried to cheer it up with as much fast food and ice cream as possible,” Schwamberger said.

Along with the support of teammates, and especially her parents Jay and Val, Haver said she was always able to remind herself that God would help her overcome.

“But I was still like God helped me get through the last one and He will help me get through this one,” Haver said.

Of course God has helped her return to a high-level of play, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still bumps on her path that she must face daily like being sore all the time, Haver said.

A good example of the sort of continuous pain and hard work Haver put in to be game ready is by taking ice baths daily.

“She never sits out of anything,” Schwamberger said. “In the first two months of the season she took an ice bath after every practice because she is in so much pain. I think she sat out of one practice. She is insane, but good insane.”

Another way Schwamberger noticed her insane work ethic and determination to get back to playing was her practice methods in preseason (the beginning of August to when school starts).

“It is preseason, and your exhausted, and she would want to come in and work on hitting, which is unheard of,” Schwamberger said.

Besides her sheer determination another quality the people closet to her have noticed is her refusal to whine or complain about her situation or injury.

“She never complained about it or anything,” said freshman golfer and brother Issac Haver. “She understood that it would take time to get through it and she worked hard to get through it.”

Senior setter Jackie Schwamberger sets up Haver for a kill in the middle in the Pioneers victory against the Cavaliers. Schwamberger said their relationship has evolved to where they know the other one is always there for them if they need it. (Photo courtesy of Andy Smith)

The prototypical Pioneer 

Along with her resiliency, Haver has served as the type of athlete that is a poster child of an athletic program with her attitude and leadership.

“She is the type of person you want recruits to meet because she is so warm and welcoming,” Hockman said. “When you are with her you feel like you are friends instantly; she has that sort of connection with people.”

One quality that stands out most for Haver is her consistency. As Hockman said, she is “the glue” because of her reliability and the exhaustive effort she gives each and every night on the court.

When thinking of her there were almost not enough positive adjectives for her coach to use to paint the picture of who Haver is and who she tries to be.

“She is consciousness, kindhearted, people-oriented and a quiet, steady leader with a joy filled heart,” Hockman said.

Naturally the relationship between coach and player is quite special in the case of Hockman and Haver, but also unique.

The reasons are because Haver came to the Pioneers as a transfer after a bad experience at Ashland University, went to the same high school as Hockman (Central Christian) and in a twist of an irony is the first Pioneer to wear the number 15 since Hockman’s playing days.

The story behind the discovery of the shared number is interesting as Haver said she didn’t know until she received a letter from coach in a tradition that sprouted from the movie, Forever Strong.

[pullquote]I don’t have any doubts that whatever God leads her towards she is going to be very good at, and love it and do it passionately,” Hockman said.[/pullquote]

The tradition for volleyball is such where players of the past will write to the athlete who now wears the number they wore and in her first year Haver found out her coach used to be number 15 as well.

“I didn’t know I was her number at first,” Haver said. “But my first year that I came here and I was 15 it was coach that wrote me and I didn’t figure it out until the end of the letter because of the way she worded it.

“It was one of those things that made me happy because I respect her so much as a Christian, most importantly, and who she was as an athlete because she works hard in everything she does.”

One of the other attributes that Hockman said she will always remember Haver by is her thankfulness. An illustration is Haver’s inability it seems to take the little things for granted.

“She’s always been thankful,” Hockman said. “There are a lot of things we all take for granted, but there are not many times Hannah gets off a bus and doesn’t say thank you, and I sit there and say ‘we need to cultivate that more.'”

Also as a leader for her teammates Haver said she always tries to keep the game fun. She loves volleyball so much and never wants to take the fun out of the game, which makes her a bit goofy at times as she will dance on the sidelines or talk in accents with her teammates.

“As my role being leader I have always tried to keep the game fun and everyone happy,” Haver said.

Certainly she has been effective in her role as teammates like Schwamberger said she will miss Haver the most for her energy, positivity and innocence.

“I will miss her childlike spirit,” Schwamberger said.


Looking ahead, Haver has many plans and dreams which include things such as doing social work at places like Harbor Light Hospice, having a family and even coaching volleyball at her alma mater.

Haver (left) celebrates a point scored with her teammates in the Sept. 25 victory against Walsh University. One of the ways Haver said she leads is by keeping the game fun for her teammates with crazy moments such as this one. (Photo courtesy of Andy Smith)

In fact, she has been coaching and giving private lessons for about two years as she tries to stay involved in the game she has loved since middle school.

“I know whatever I do I will have to do something with volleyball,” Haver said. “It has been a big part of my life, I have had ups and downs, but I still love it in the end.”

No matter what direction Haver takes, her coach has no doubts she will be successful and find fulfillment in God’s plan for her life.

“I don’t have any doubts that whatever God leads her towards she is going to be very good at, and love it and do it passionately,” Hockman said.

Volleyball’s next set of matches comes this weekend as the Pioneers will host the NCCAA East Region Tournament Pool Play starting Friday, Nov. 16.

Chris Sherwood is sports editor for The Aviso AVW.


Categories: Sports

Tagged as:

1 reply »

  1. What a beautiful depiction of her story. Literally brought me to tears, so thank you for writing it in such a way that another athlete can relate and be proud to be called a Pioneer!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s