At the conclusion of the 2011 volleyball season, there was a sense that Doherty would be a special team in 2012. And that was before the arrival of Haleigh Washington.

The junior transfer student has made the Spartans the best team in the state and one of the top 10 teams in the nation thus far. Doherty is off to a 13-0 start and has won 34 of 37 games, and Washington has been a big reason for that success.

“As a player she brings another threat and weapon to our offense and she brings the big presence of a middle blocker, which we needed,” Doherty coach Tara Hittle said. “Personality-wise she brings the team together and is very light-hearted. I’m sure her opponents would love to hate her, but it’s impossible to.”

In a five-game, come-from-behind victory over Cheyenne Mountain, Washington had 22 kills and a .545 hitting percentage. The Indians are also ranked in the nation’s top 25 according to several publications, and Washington added seven blocks against them.

“It was a fun match to play in,” Washington said of the Cheyenne Mountain challenge. “Losing the second and third games was when we had to work and saw who we really were; that’s when our Spartan pride came out. I learned that this team will never give up and someone is always there to pump us up and we respond well.”

On a team that is loaded with talent, the Penn State committee has been the ring leader. She’s reached double digits in kills in every best-of-three match, leads the state in hitting percentage (.621) and ranks fourth in 5A in kills per set (4.6).

“We’re so good it’s kind of scary,” Washington said of her team’s overall physical and mental capabilities. “I don’t want to sound cocky, but we can be very good. But we need to keep putting forth the effort and I know this team will continue to get better and the potential for this team is through the roof. We are so strong as a team and mentally strong.”

Washington is in good hands with Hittle, who is a former state player of the year and state champion at Doherty. It has made for a strong relationship between the two.

“We get along very well; she’s very outgoing and I like her humility,” Hittle said. “She’s a great player, but she doesn’t think she’s good enough yet and she wants to get better. Since she’s so coachable and wants to get better it makes it easier for the coaches.”