DeKalb | Bench players are supposed to come on and give a team a boost, and that’s exactly what senior Tori Halbur has done this season.
Through her first three seasons, Halbur, an outside hitter, sporadically saw action. Last season, she played in more than half of the team’s matches and played an average 1.6 sets per match.
After seeing action in 26 matches in her first three years, Halbur is on pace to top that in her final season.
Halbur has seen much more court time in her senior campaign, playing in all 10 matches. Her 29 sets played are the most by any outside hitter on the Huskie bench.
After years of mostly watching her teammates and encouraging them from the sideline, Halbur has put in the extra effort to make her senior year a memorable one.
“I’ve never really been the star player throughout the years,” Halbur said. “This year, I’m trying to step it up so I could make sure I could be one of those star players, or at least a player in general. I wanted to make a presence on the court, no matter what the situation was.”
Halbur has separated herself from other bench players in her serving game and her defensive ability.
While Halbur had received limited serving opportunities before this season, she has been an essential part of the service rotation for the team during crucial stretches of games.
Although she is fifth in serve attempts, Halbur is second with eight aces, averaging .28 aces per set.
Because of the emergence of freshman Mary Grace Kelly and the continued success of junior Mackenzie Roddy, Halbur has been primarily delegated to playing in the back row while on the court.
“I didn’t really know if she was going to be a back row player for us until we started getting some matches in and she played well on the back row,” said head coach Ray Gooden. “She is still competing to be one of our outsides, but we are really happy with what she’s done for us so far.”
The 6-foot-2 hitter has provided defensive stability, supplying consistent returning and digging to go with her solid serving. Halbur has a .983 reception percentage and is averaging 1.66 digs per set, which leads all of NIU’s bench players.
Outside of her individual play, Halbur has embraced a mentoring role for her younger teammates.
“I think that being a good leader and a good role model in every situation is something that I’ve been working on,” Halbur said. “Luckily we had some good seniors last year and the year before that. I could look up to them and try to picture myself doing their role when I had the chance.”
Gooden has also noticed the transformation in her role. He is pleased with the way Halbur has accepted challenges both in and out of
“She worked on her confidence and consistency,” Gooden said. “She’s continued to grow as a teammate and she tries to help people. Her level of confidence has improved, which has helped her to communicate [to] the younger girls, whether it’s about certain things on the court or how to adjust to having school and a sport every day. She’s been a positive influence in that regard.”