By Samantha DelRosso, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - There is more to Haleigh Washington than meets the
On match day, she is the fired up middle hitter that's leading the NCAA in hitting
percentage. But when she's not on the court, you can find her with her nose in
a book and a cup of tea in hand.
Poetry, philosophy, history. No genre is out of the question for
Washington. She's currently reading Road
of a Thousand Wonders by Jeffrey Joe Nelson, a compilation of contemporary
poetry. Not many college students, not to mention student-athletes, are reading
poetry in the little spare time that they have. But that's what makes
Washington different from the rest.
"She's not a typical athlete. She is so smart," roommate Ali Frantti said.
"Haleigh will be successful in whatever she does because she's got that want
and that knowledge. She's so witty and smart that it's going to carry her
Head coach Russ Rose said Washington always has a book in her hand. When
the team travels for matches, Washington is reading.
Rose said when he saw Washington reading on the bus, he asked if it was for
a class. Her response? It was an assigned book for later in the semester because
she had already read the introductory book. Rose said, "that's just Haleigh."
"She's incredibly bright, always reading, very inquisitive and a really
happy human being," Rose said.
Washington, a sophomore from Colorado, spent her days as a kid playing
outside by the river with her siblings. When she arrived at Penn State in 2014,
she found that she didn't have much time outside of her academic and athletic
obligations. But reading books gave her a similar satisfaction that playing
outside as a kid did.
"I've always been an 'out there' kind of person. In college, when I didn't
have a lot of free time, I would still go 'out there', but I would use books,"
Frantti has seen Washington's love for reading since the first time they
"Her face is always in a book. Even after doing homework, I remember her
just pulling out books. And she's one of those people that will take a highlighter
and just start highlighting things [in books that weren't even assigned for a
In many of the books that Washington reads, she can apply them to her own
life, to relationships, friendships and everything in between.
"This book last year that I was reading for a class was about existing on
the planet and living harmoniously," Washington said. "It was all about
balancing your time, which I thought was really good as a freshmen coming into
college. How to balance all of your time and not spread yourself too thin, but
just enough that you can figure everything out."
This love for reading runs in the family for Washington. She said her
mother and brother finish books in two days, a day or even hours. But
Washington is not the type to breeze through a book. She likes to take her time
to truly understand the book she's reading.
"I don't devour books like [my mom and brother]," Washington said. "I'll
sit down and devour a book, but usually I like to sit down and enjoy it, so
I'll read a little, I'll understand it, I'll go over it, I'll annotate it, I'll
look things up."
Washington's favorite spot to read is Webster's Bookstore and Café, located
on Beaver Avenue. There, she will sit down with a good book and a London Fog,
her favorite kind of tea.
Walk into any library or bookstore on campus and you will find many people drinking
coffee to fight off the tiredness that comes with being a college student. But
Washington, to no surprise, is different from most college students.
"I'm a tea person. I'll have a [cup of] black coffee every once in a while,
but I'm a sucker for a good cup of tea," Washington said.
In addition to her literary brilliance, Frantti said Washington is the
"queen of crazy, unknown facts".
"I just listen to all of the [facts] and I'm amazed at how she knows all of
this stuff," Frantti said.
When Washington isn't doing homework, playing volleyball or reading, like
most college students, she is usually hanging out with friends and teammates.
"I just like chilling with friends, talking and listening to music. Hanging
out with [my friends] is awesome," Washington said.
Frantti, one of Washington's closest friends, cherishes her friendship with
Washington. She said Washington is a great roommate, a trustworthy friend and
that positive, energetic, happy-go-lucky attitude that fans see on the court,
is the same Washington off the court.
"But she's a simple girl when it comes down to it," Frantti said. "It's books,
tea, and volleyball."