Volleyball: Hale commits to Millikin University

Rochelle senior Payton Hale will continue her academics and her volleyball career at Millikin University next year. (Photo by Russell Hodges)

Rochelle senior intending to study nursing

Payton Hale’s versatility was a huge reason why the Rochelle Lady Hub varsity volleyball team successfully recorded its first winning season since 2019 this past fall. Once a player who could only fill one position on the court, Hale’s role with the Lady Hubs expanded greatly throughout her four years at RTHS. That growth culminated during her senior season, where she lined up at several different positions including middle blocker and outside hitter as well as in the back row.

Hale will look to bring that versatility to the collegiate level next year, with the senior committing to continue her academics and her volleyball career at Millikin University. Hale spent four years with the Lady Hub volleyball program including three years on the varsity team, where she was named an All-Conference First Team honoree in the Interstate 8 during her senior season.

“I met the coaches and they were both so sweet,” Hale said. “I think I’ll find my family there and I’m hoping to make more friends and meet new people. I’m looking forward to the experience because not many people are blessed to receive this experience. I think coach [Molly] Sly and my teammates really pushed me to get better and that motivated me to keep playing.”

Hale totaled a team-high 182 digs and 43 blocks while adding 133 kills and 32 service aces on the offensive end of the court. A front-row starter this season, Hale also earned Rochelle’s Most Valuable Player Award this season, where she helped lead the Lady Hubs to an 18-15-3 overall record. Hale was named an All-Conference Honorable Mention in the Interstate 8 during her junior season, where she compiled a team-leading 38 blocks as the starting middle blocker.

“I think I’ll mostly be playing in the middle because I think that’s what they were looking for,” Hale said. “I think my overall play improved the most because I came in as a starting middle and that’s all I did, but I had more opportunities to play in the back row and be a hitter this season. I’m hoping to be a lot stronger and I hope I can be a good teammate that people can look up to.”

Hale was named an Academic All-Conference honoree in the Interstate 8 during her senior season. Hale, who chipped in 17 kills and 20 digs during her sophomore season, said she intends to study nursing in order to eventually pursue a career in the healthcare industry. In addition to her volleyball career at RTHS, Hale competed with the VC United volleyball club.

“Payton is a hard worker and she makes a positive impact in anything she’s a part of,” Lady Hubs head coach Molly Sly said. “It was an honor to get to know her and coach her over the past four years and I know there are great things in store for her in the future.”