Hard-hitting Hazen: Columbia City volleyball player controls the frontline

COLUMBIA CITY — Most Columbia City volleyball fans know when Gabrielle Hazen is making her approach and the ball is in the air: the Lady Eagles are about to score a point.At 6-foot-2, Hazen towers over the net, and her opponents. Her arms reach several feet over the net, helping her to be Columbia City’s dominant force. She led the team in both blocking and hitting last season as a sophomore, was named 2nd-Team All-Conference and was on the All-Area Honorable Mention team.With all of those accolades, it’s hard to imagine she’s only played volleyball for four years.“I started playing volleyball in eighth grade,” Hazen said. “I don’t really know what influenced my decision to play. I think I just wanted to try everything to see what I liked. I just fell in love with the sport.”In her eighth-grade season, she was named “Most Improved.” While Hazen knew her mom, Kathleen, played in high school for Whitko, she didn’t know there was a family history behind the sport until her eighth-grade year.“After my grandpa, Ervin Bolt, came to watch my game against Warsaw, I found out that both he and his sister played volleyball,” Hazen said.Though she played in school, Kathleen said the rules have changed, and one of Gabrielle’s best memories of volleyball is attempting to teach her mom the new rules. I remember sitting in our backyard around a bonfire trying to explain the new rules of volleyball to my mom,” Hazen said. “To this day she is still trying to figure out a way to keep me in the front row the entire game.”Though Hazen’s dad, David, never had the opportunity to play volleyball, he said he’s always loved the sport.“Both of my parents, and my grandparents have been extremely supportive,” Hazen said. “God has blessed me with such a supportive family.”Hazen has two brothers, Brachen (incoming freshman) and Parker (eighth grade) and an older sister, Korinne. All six members of the Hazen family stand over six feet tall. Her dad is 6-foot-3, Kathleen is 6-foot-1, Korinne is 6 feet tall, Parker is 6-foot-2 and Brachen is the tallest at 6-foot-5.Korinne graduated from Columbia City this year and was a manager for the volleyball team. Her brothers, who were involved in athletics at Indian Springs last year, also play AAU basketball, giving the Hazen family a full schedule of games during the offseason.“My grandparents, Ervin and Garlene Bolt, never hesitate to step up and take me to my tournaments,” Hazen said.From December to June, Hazen plays AAU volleyball for a club team out of Fort Wayne.“We just finished up our season in Orlando at the AAU Jr. National Championships,” Hazen said. “We finished 5-7 and won our bracket.” She has plans to attend some Big 10 volleyball camps, including one with fellow stand-out teammate Kalisha Goree at Purdue this week, who will also be a junior this season.“Once I finish up the week and a half straight of camps, I will go right into open gyms for Columbia City volleyball,” Hazen said.While in some sports, such as track, basketball, swimming, etc., athletes can practice alone in the offseason, volleyball is different.“It’s a little harder to practice volleyball by yourself,” Hazen said. “I’m not able to work on transition skills as much as I would like to.”But Hazen said she has been able to work on other things, such as strength training, arm swing and hand contact, and a parent is organizing practices for Columbia City’s setters and hitters to get together over the summer.“The setter/hitter connection can make or break an offense,” Hazen said. “We will practice working on different sets that we will be able to use this season, as well as getting used to playing with one another again.”Aside from volleyball, in school Hazen is involved in Key Club, Future Educators of America (FEA) and a Columbia City High School Student Leadership group (SLAC).Several Big Ten schools are considering offering scholarships to Hazen, along with Notre Dame and Hazen got official offer from Ball State. “I’m considering all schools right now,” Hazen said. Hazen said she’s working close with her dad to make a decision.“Not only has my dad been there cheering for me in the stands, but he has also been extremely helpful to me through the recruiting process,” Hazen said. “My dad has been amazing through the past four years.”Hazen said they are learning a lot from her coaches in club volleyball, as well as her uncle, Jim Hazen, who was a baseball coach at Anderson University.