Playing volleyball at West Virginia and in the Big 12 Conference was an opportunity Hannah Sackett, a 2012 graduate of Flathead High, could not pass up. Now she’s ready to return home for one final season.
Sackett, who will graduate with a degree in political science next week after just three years at West Virginia, has accepted a scholarship offer from Montana and will use her final season of eligibility to play for the Grizzlies.
“Being a Montana native and having spent my entire life in the state, I never truly appreciated the majesty that is Big Sky Country,” Sackett said this week while wrapping up finals in Morgantown. “I never appreciated it, that is, until I left three years ago.
“Now with an opportunity to return to the place I call home, I could not pass it up. I am very excited to be able to play volleyball at the university I grew up supporting.”
Sackett was a four-year starter at Flathead High and a two-time all-state performer for the Bravettes, and she had immediate success at West Virginia, which was making the transition from the Big East to the Big 12 in Sackett’s first season.
The six-foot outside hitter led the Mountaineers in kills as a freshman and was among the team leaders in that category as both a sophomore and junior as West Virginia found its footing in its new conference. The Mountaineers finished ninth in the Big 12 in 2012 and improved to sixth in both 2013 and ’14.
Sackett will graduate this week with a 3.65 GPA, and her early finish allowed her to look elsewhere for graduate school. She will work toward an advanced degree in business administration at Montana.
“I had the good fortune of being able to graduate in three years, and that allowed me to pursue a master’s degree during my fourth year of eligibility,” she said.
“I knew my time in graduate school would best be spent at a different university than West Virginia so that I could continue to expand my network. With a network built in the eastern U.S., what better place than the western U.S. to begin a new one?”
Sackett becomes new Griz volleyball coach Brian Doyon’s second addition this spring. He signed Silerolia Gaogao of Waipahu, Hawaii, to a National Letter of Intent in April.
In addition to her high-level experience, Sackett, a terminating left-side hitter, will help Montana in an area where the Grizzlies struggled last year. Montana ranked last in the Big Sky Conference in kills, putting down fewer than 11 per set, and had a weak .165 team hitting percentage.
“Hannah comes in with a lot of experience and a lot of skill, and can really help us in a number of different ways, not only with the teams we’re going to face but with the complexity of the game she is used to playing,” said Doyon.
“The first thing you notice about Hannah is that she is a great athlete with a nice, fluid arm swing. That allows her to put the ball away and terminate at a very high efficiency. And she is very passionate about the game. She’ll bring a lot of energy and joy for the game.”
Montana was unable to slow Sackett down last fall when the Grizzlies faced West Virginia at the Mountaineer Invitational. She had eight kills and no errors on just 14 swings to hit a match-high .571 in WVU’s 3-0 sweep.
The performance came as no surprise to Griz libero Sadie Ahearn, who will be a redshirt junior in the fall. Though she lived in Somers, on the north shore of Flathead Lake, Sackett regularly traveled south to Missoula to play club for the Montana Volleyball Academy.
“We were co-captains together and had a pretty solid bond,” said Ahearn. “She was a really big force on that team and our go-to girl. She can do anything you want her to do.
“I’m ecstatic she’s coming. She has such a good attitude all the time, and she is really easy to play with because she works hard 100 percent of the time.”
Sackett will be one of only two seniors, along with middle blocker Capri Richardson, on next fall’s young team that will feature nine players who are underclassmen in eligibility.
“I think it’s going to be easy for her to come in and take on a leadership role with the team, because she’s going to be one of the more experienced girls,” said Ahearn.
“She has the experience of playing in a high-level program and conference, so she’ll bring that to our team and practices. That’s what we need.”
In addition to Sackett and Gaogao, Montana signed middle blocker Hailey Jackson of Apple Valley, Calif., to a National Letter of Intent in November. Doyon expects to announce one final addition next week.
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