If you ask one of the 18 members of the Bradley volleyball program to describe their team in one word, you would hear a multitude of answers from committed, to hungry to focused. If you ask junior outside hitter Erica Haslag to describe her team, she would not hesitate in giving her answer: family.
A native of Jefferson City, Mo, Haslag has been a star for the Braves since she first set foot on the Hilltop in 2015. Haslag has made her mark on the program, leading Bradley in kills in her first two seasons. The outside hitter continues to climb up the Bradley record books, boasting a team best 451 kills this year.
Haslag said she began playing volleyball at a young age and was introduced to the game by her sister.
My sister actually played volleyball in college, as well, at Missouri S&T, Haslag said. She just graduated two years ago, but Id say shes the reason I got into it when I was really young.
Theres no coincidence in Haslags answer in describing her team as a family. Haslag said she considers family to be a big part of her life, and it has a lot to do with why she chose Bradley.
The main reason I came to Bradley was because of the actuarial science program, Haslag said. On top of that, the Missouri Valley Conference includes a lot of schools right around Missouri so my parents get to come to practically every game. Im really close to my family so that was a big plus for me.
Haslag has seen some tough times for Bradley volleyball throughout her career. During her freshman season, the team had only one conference win. However, since head coach Carol Price-Torok took over the helm, things have turned around, according to Haslag.
Although the win totals are just slightly going up, the team culture has changed dramatically since Carol got here, Haslag said. There are a lot of things that Carol has changed that Ive seen other than the culture, like reaching out to alumni and making sure we have a good face to our program, which is an awesome direction.
While Haslag said she credits Price-Torok for turning the program around, the head coach said she could not have made advancements without Haslag, who has made great strides in her game, as well.
That first spring when I was here, one of the first things I noticed was how committed Erica was to working and committed to getting better, Price-Torok said. I think shes really grown in a lot of aspects of her game and she continues to get better every day. This year, specifically, I think shes made huge strides with serve-receive. People serve a lot of balls at her to try to get her out of system and out of rhythm, but shes done a really great job with it.
Price-Torok said Haslags work ethic and drive is what sets her apart and makes her so effective.
Erica is someone that wants to get things done, Price-Torok said. From academics to volleyball-wise, being successful is something thats very important to her.
Haslag has been the focal point of the Braves offense this season, something Price-Torok said the outside hitter is handling very well.
We rely on her from a point-producing standpoint a lot, and she shoulders really that well, Price-Torok said. Whether shes having a good game or a bad game, you dont see her get rattled too often, and I think that speaks a lot to her character and how good she wants this team to be.
Before Haslags graduation in May 2019, Price-Torok said she would like to see the star acknowledged within the conference.
I want her to have success, not only by Bradley standards, but for people to recognize how good she is in our conference and people to really understand how important she is to our team, Price-Torok said.
Haslag echoed her coaches expectations, and said making an All-Missouri Valley Conference squad is just one of many goals she wants to check off her list.
Personally, Id love to be on an MVC team, Haslag said. As a team, I want to continue to improve and make it to the MVC tournament if not this year, than definitely next.