Clarion senior standout excels in volleyball, basketball
With a grandfather who played two sports at Clarion and an aunt who swam there, Hannah Heeter is athletic by nature. With four older brothers who played sports, she's competitive by nurture.
Those attributes have helped Heeter craft one of the most decorated careers in the history of Clarion women's athletics.
She's coming off a junior year that saw her earn All-PSAC West honors in volleyball and basketball — she was the only player in the PSAC to average a double-double (14.4 points, 13.3 rebounds) — as well as become the first Golden Eagle to earn academic All-American honors for two sports in the same year.
“I'm always surprised, but at the same time, I'm pretty determined when I play a sport to be the best,” said Heeter, who maintains a 3.9 GPA as a pre-med/biology major. “I'm proud of myself and what I've accomplished, and hopefully I can keep it going for my last year.”
Heeter was not heavily recruited out of District 9 Cranberry. She caught the eye of Clarion volleyball coach Jennifer Mills while attending a camp at the university. Though Mills recognized that Heeter had technical flaws in her game, she offered her a scholarship after the camp.
“We saw size and athleticism,” said Mills. “Let's put it this way: I love a good project. She's an athlete physically that you don't get too many of those, and I'm willing to take a chance on that.”
Her recruitment to the basketball team happened almost by accident.
Heeter decided she was bored during the spring of her freshman year, so she and some friends formed an intramural basketball team. She was spotted playing by a couple of Clarion's men's players, who told a member of the women's basketball staff about her. Soon after, she had an offer to join the basketball team.
Mills usually doesn't let her players participate in a second sport out of concern for their academics. But Heeter was granted permission — provided she did not do any basketball activities until volleyball season ended.
“She's one of those kids who is better busy,” said Mills. “For an athlete like that who isn't going to let her grades slip … I'm OK with it.”
Heeter is hoping the volleyball team advances far enough into the postseason this year that she'll have to put basketball on hold for a few more weeks. Heading into Friday's match at East Strousburg, the Golden Eagles are 19-1 following a win Tuesday against Juniata, and Heeter would like a repeat of her freshman year when the team advanced to the NCAA Division II Elite Eight.
“We talked as a team that we wanted to keep a game-by-game mentality and to not really think too far into the future,” she said. “That tended to be our problem the past couple years.”
With team success usually come individual accolades, and Heeter likely will be in line for plenty more of those. But Heeter wants to leave a team legacy at Clarion.
“I want to try to get as close to a national championship as a team as possible,” she said. “My favorite moment so far has been my trip to the Elite Eight my freshman season. That's kind of what you dream of. I'm not giving up hope that I can get (a national title) before I leave.”
Chuck Curti is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.