Meet Rachel Hadley: Napa Valley College head women's volleyball coach
By MARTY JAMES
Rachel Hadley gave her life to gymnastics, training and competing, all the time, at an early age. She was in the gym just about every day of the week, working hard all the time in each of the events – vault, balance beam, uneven bars, floor exercise – as she rose to Level 8.
"I didn't even have time to do another sport," said Hadley, who is originally from Nevada City, Calif. "With gymnastics, it was 40 hours a week, practicing every single day, with meets on the weekends. And if we didn't have meets on the weekends, we'd have double days on Saturdays."
When she felt as if she "wasn't moving forward" with gymnastics, Hadley made the decision to change sports. She turned to volleyball when she was 14 years old.
"I think I'm definitely somebody that when I love something, I give 1,000 percent to it," Hadley said.
She was all in for volleyball, learning all she could about the game and what goes into each position on the floor.
"For me, it made this spark," Hadley said. "I was really athletic from gymnastics. I'm short, but I could jump high at that point."
Hadley played four years of volleyball for Nevada Union High School in Grass Valley, two as a starter at outside hitter, right-side hitter, middle hitter and middle blocker. The 2013 graduate was a team captain and team MVP, as well as first-team All-Sierra Foothill League as an outside hitter.
During the 2012 season, she had 96 kills, 21 service aces, 32 block assists, 15 solo blocks, and 76 digs.
She played club volleyball for Force Performance Volleyball Club, SynergyForce Volleyball Club, Element Volleyball and Gold Rush Volleyball.
"I was also going to every camp I could, every single weekend, all summer, from my freshman year to my sophomore year. And that was when I realized that I was good at volleyball," said Hadley.
Hadley played two years of college volleyball as an outside hitter and defensive specialist at Cal State San Marcos, during which time the Cougars had all kinds of success.
The 2013 team was 26-12, winning the Association of Independent Institutions Conference title and reaching the NAIA national tournament. Hadley had 92 kills, 140 digs and 18 service aces in 24 matches. She had 15 kills against San Diego Christian and had four blocks against William Jessup.
The 2014 team had a 27-11 record, winning the Association of Independent Institutions Conference title and advancing to the NAIA national tournament. She had eight kills and eight digs against West Coast Baptist and registered four digs against Embry-Riddle.
"I honestly can't say enough about how much the sport has done for me," Hadley said. "You know, I came from a small town, where kids that don't have a way out, might not ever leave and might not have great opportunities. Volleyball was one of the main motivators for me to work really hard in school, to be able to go somewhere.
"I chose Cal State San Marcos because it was a really great program already. I wanted to go somewhere that I knew I was going to have a positive experience. All of the girls were really welcoming. They already had had so much success, and I wanted to be a part of it. I ended up playing a lot of DS, which was great. I found a love for passing that I didn't know that I had before. I would work out on top of our practices during the season."
Hadley transferred to Sonoma State and played five years of collegiate club volleyball. She was the Most Valuable Player each of the last two years, leading the Sonoma State women's club team to National Collegiate Volleyball Federation National Division II Championships in 2018 and 2019.
Hadley was also selected first-team all-league for Sonoma State, which had a 28-7 record during the 2019 season.
"I tell people I'm literally obsessed with volleyball," she said.
Hadley is in her second season of leading the Napa Valley College team as the Storm's head coach. She works closely with Robert Stamps, NVC's Director of Volleyball.
Stamps and Chelsea Reilley, who is also the head coach at Justin-Siena, were honored as National Coaches of the Year for the Sonoma State team this year by the National Collegiate Volleyball Federation.
"Robert and Chelsea are huge mentors for me," said Hadley.
Hadley is excited to be on the NVC athletic department staff and wants the 2019 season to serve as a turning point for the NVC program.
"I can't say enough about how great all of the staff is around here to work with, with staff members and faculty members being there for you and looking out for you and wanting the best for you in all respects," she said.
"I'm absolutely excited for this season. I'm hoping to get some really great new recruits out and bring another really excellent team out next year."
Hadley graduated from Sonoma State in 2018 with a degree in earth science with an emphasis in geology and paleontology.
* Marty James is a freelance writer who makes his home in Napa. He retired on June 4, after spending 40 years as a sports writer, sports editor and executive sports editor for the Napa Valley Register, a daily newspaper in Napa County. He is a 1979 graduate of Sacramento State and a member of the California Golf Writers & Broadcasters Association, Associated Press Sports Editors, and California Prep Sports Media Association. He was inducted into the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Hall of Fame in 2016.