Q&A with Tara Hester
Tara Hester is among three seniors on Virginia’s volleyball team that will be playing in their final matches in Memorial Gymnasium this weekend. Hester was an outside hitter prior to this season, but has made the switch to a setter and defensive specialist this year. With her third dig in the Cavaliers’ win over NC State last weekend, Hester hit the 100-dig plateau this season and will look to add to that against Wake Forest on Friday and Duke on Saturday. Both matches are scheduled for 7 p.m.
Note: Because of the home football game Saturday, fans are reminded to park at the Emmet/Ivy garage for the volleyball match that night.
Question: As a former outside, why did you become a setter this year?
Hester: I had shoulder surgery last spring, which still makes hitting a little more difficult than it used to be. And our team only had one setter on the roster, so changing positions was really the best way to help the team out and it really benefited me in aspect to my shoulder.
Question: That’s a tough switch to make, as you hold a completely different role in the game. What was the transition like?
Hester: I started training for the setting position during the end of July and at first it was a little daunting because I had always been a hitter. For almost 10 years, I had been receiving direction from the setter and suddenly, I was the one calling the plays. My teammates and coaches were really supportive in helping me adjust and learn though. It has been an ongoing learning process, but I’ve really enjoyed setting this year. It is the best feeling to make a great set and have your teammate just crush the ball. That was a feeling I never really experienced before this year.
Question: You’ve now become a defensive specialist and have been on the court through a large portion of the matches this season. Do you enjoy that role?
Hester: I really enjoy playing in the back row. I love frustrating the other team by digging a ball that they thought would have been a definite kill.
Question: What has been the most difficult part of all of your switches?
Hester: I think the most difficult part of playing multiple positions is just staying focused and remembering what your job is depending on what position you are playing. I know during practice I still can get mixed up sometimes, but I have had a blast playing all over the court.
Question: It’s a rare case that you’ve been able to see the court from the perspective of a hitter, and then a setter and now a defender. What are the main differences that you’ve noticed about each position?
Hester: To me the jobs of each position kind of blur together since, for instance, no matter what position you are, you have to play defense. But depending on whether I’m setting, hitting or defending, certain aspects of the game become more of my responsibility. When I’m defending, my main priorities are passing and not letting the ball hit the floor. If I am hitting, my main objectives are more likely terminating the ball and blocking. With setting, I am mostly focused on bettering the ball for my teammates to hit.
Question: If you were to do it all over again, which position would you choose to play?
Hester: If I could do it all over again, I would want to be a setter, outside hitter and defender again, and maybe middle blocker too, considering its the only position I’ve never played. Truly though, being able to see the game from multiple perspectives has really made me enjoy and appreciate volleyball that much more.
Question: This weekend you play your last matches in Memorial Gymnasium. Looking back, what is one thing that playing volleyball for Virginia has taught you?
Hester: Playing volleyball for Virginia has taught me so much, but one thing I’ve learned in particular is the value of hard work and dedication. It is rare and special to be a part of a group where everyone puts in such a high level of effort and time, and playing for UVa has really taught me to appreciate the strength of a team working towards common goals.
Question: If you could give a piece of advice to someone just beginning their career, what would you tell them?
Hester: My advice to younger players would be to work hard, but also remember to enjoy it everyday. Time goes by too quickly to take any game or practice for granted.
Question: Through all of your road trips, memories, matches and practices, what stands out to you as your most memorable experience?
Hester: Every year and every trip holds special memories for me, but I don’t think I’ll ever forget completely wiping out and falling down the ramp at the airport while boarding a plane my first year.
Question: What does playing in Mem Gym mean to you?
Hester: I may be a little biased, but Mem Gym is my favorite place of all the facilities I’ve played in since I was 11. I love its beauty and the energy of the crowd on game night. I think I might have to sneak back after I graduate, because I have a hard time accepting that this weekend is the last time I’ll ever compete in Mem Gym.