The Daily Gamecock

Guyton heads from the office to the courts

At 4 p.m. on a warm, sunny Wednesday, Haley Guyton is raking the sand at USC’s new sand volleyball facility along with her teammates. They’ve just wrapped up a typical afternoon’s practice, scrimmaging while a playlist packed with hard rock hits from the ’80s blasted from the sidelines, punctuated by the dull thuds and sharp smacks of volleyballs hitting hands and arms.

Chatting animatedly and shielding her eyes from the sun, this is a far cry from what Guyton would have been doing this time last semester. The former student body treasurer used to spend her afternoons not scrimmaging in the sun and sand, but in her office in the Campus Life Center, filling out paperwork, answering emails and meeting with other Student Government officials.

Guyton’s path to the new sand courts has been a winding one, with many detours along the way — Student Government chief among them. But both experiences, which she counts among her most significant in college, started with a simple question: Why not?

‘Why not?’

Guyton first thought “why not” try volleyball in the summer of 2008. The idea caught hold of her while watching Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh-Jennings win their second gold medal in beach volleyball for the United States in the Summer Olympics.

“I’m someone who’s really always said, ‘Oh, why can’t I try that?’” Guyton said. “I tried pole vaulting, I did triathlons for a while, and I saw [volleyball] on TV and thought, ‘Why not?’”

So Guyton, then 5-foot-3, tried out for Dreher High School’s volleyball team and made it.

“But, boy, I didn’t play,” Guyton said with a laugh. “I sat that bench.”

But she wanted to play, so she joined a club team, playing as a defensive specialist, also known as a libero, for three years. She received one-on-one training from Sarah Cline, then a libero on the South Carolina volleyball team, and participated in USC’s indoor and sand volleyball camps.

While looking into Division II programs as a high school junior, Guyton developed a relationship with the South Carolina volleyball coaching staff and decided to stay in her hometown for college.

She trained during the summer before her freshman year, intending to walk on to the Gamecocks volleyball team, but “things just didn’t work out.” Suddenly, her plans for college were drastically altered.

“I had to figure out, ‘Okay, I’m here. What am I going to do?’” Guyton said. “Sports had always been one of my top priorities, and things just didn’t work out. … It was kind of a loss for me.”
She used that loss as a chance to throw herself into competitive CrossFit, a strength and conditioning program, and work as a Young Life leader, mentoring high school-aged girls.

Then, she found Student Government.

‘What’s next?’

Guyton joined SG as a comptroller, working as a liaison between student organizations and then-Student Body Treasurer Coy Gibson. After just a few months in the position, she decided to run for treasurer.

She won the race after a runoff election and presided over Student Government’s financial processes while the body switched from one set of financial codes to another. But as her term started to near its end, she began thinking, “What’s next?”

She had already considered trying out for the fledgling sand volleyball team, but balked at the possibility that joining the team may have meant taking time away from her role as treasurer.

“I thought, ‘There’s no way I can be a student, an athlete and serve to the fullest of my ability as treasurer,’” Guyton said. “I swallowed that and decided not to try out.”

But while Guyton had doubts, those around her didn’t. Her parents continued to encourage her to try out, and a conversation with former SG Secretary of Athletics Austin Solheim helped change her mind.

Solheim knew about Guyton’s love of volleyball and disappointment that she didn’t get to play for the indoor team. While talking in her office, Solheim asked her why she hadn’t tried out yet.

“She looked at me and said, ‘What do you want me to do, call the coach?’” Solheim said.

So she did.

Diving in

“I thought, ‘What am I going to do on March 19 at 4 p.m. when I’m not treasurer anymore?’” Guyton said. “I thought I’d just be going to classes, and I asked myself, ‘Is that going to make me better?’ It took about 0.3 seconds to say ‘No, it won’t.’”

With Solheim still sitting in her office, she called head coach Moritz Moritz and left a voice mail. When he called her back, she sprinted out of her 30-person poetry class to take the call.

Guyton tried out for the team on an icy Friday in February at 6 a.m. She and the other team hopefuls started the session by chipping ice out of the sand. At the end, Moritz asked her to be at practice at 1:30. She had made the team.

Only about a month overlapped between her tenure as treasurer and her start on the sand volleyball team. For some, it would be overwhelming; for Guyton, it was characteristic.

“You stop one really big time investment and start another one,” she said. “I guess it wouldn’t really be Haley fashion if I didn’t do that.”

‘Sand legs’

Since then, Guyton has wasted no time getting what Moritz calls her “sand legs.” Besides two beach volleyball camps during high school, Guyton had never played on the sand competitively.

“Before this, it was two weeks of my entire life over two years. And that was four, five years ago,” Guyton said. “I’m from Columbia. We don’t really do beach volleyball.”

That’s not uncommon among Guyton’s teammates, Moritz said. Six of the 18 women on the team come from South Carolina’s indoor squad, and two of those “crossover” athletes are listed as having previous sand volleyball experience on Two others on the team have previous beach experience listed, while the remaining 14 do not.

“We have some girls who have a lot of experience [on the sand] and some that have no experience,” Moritz said. “All of them have volleyball experience, but there’s a big difference between beach and six-man.”

Guyton has had to adjust to that difference. Besides getting used to the “cattywampus” sand courts, she’s had to learn how to play with only one teammate and transition from the aggressive spikes of indoor volleyball to the trickier shots that characterize sand play.

“Here, it’s the finesse shots, the deep rolls, the balls that end right in the corner or right on the lines,” Guyton said.

Her work has paid off; Guyton has already achieved her first season goal of making the road squad, traveling to the team’s first tournament at North Florida. She’s focusing on sharpening her skills this season so she can play more frequently next year.

“Heck, I haven’t played volleyball in three years. I have obviously lost a great deal of what I was once able to do,” Guyton said. “It’s going to take me some time to get back and master the consistency required to play sand volleyball.”

No complaints

For Guyton, the difference between being a Division I NCAA athlete and one of Student Government’s top official is huge. The work she puts in is different, as is the time commitment; instead of office hours in the Campus Life Center and weekly student senate briefings, she now has 6 a.m. weight training sessions and practice on the sand up to six days a week.

“It’s a whole other ball game,” Guyton said, laughing at her accidental pun.

But one of the biggest transitions was going from the top of the heap to just another member of the team.

“I’m going from someone who got to call the shots to someone who has to learn how to follow again,” Guyton said. “I am excited to learn how to do that again.”
But with these two vastly different experiences, Guyton is nothing but grateful for what she’s been able to accomplish in her college career.

“For me, it’s more than volleyball. It’s more than coming out and bump, set, spiking. I love what I get to do,” Guyton said. “I don’t know why God chose to give me this, but I’m doing everything not to miss the meaning of this and to give myself to this program.”

Guyton said she plans on staying for a fifth year of school, provided she’s eligible to play, and she is considering picking up a second major in sport and entertainment management. Beyond that, she’s not sure what’s next. But that’s okay.

“This has been really great. I would love for it to never end, but I have to make the most of the time I have left. I can’t sit here and complain about a thing,” she said. “I got to invest in young girls’ lives and show them Jesus freshman year. I got to invest in others and grow myself in SG. Now, I get to invest myself in athletics and athleticism. I cannot complain at all. I can’t think of what I’d do if I wasn’t doing this.”

Well, maybe she can think of one thing.

“Maybe I’d be watching ‘Game of Thrones,’” Guyton said, smiling. “Everyone’s talking about that.”


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