WKU VOLLEYBALL | Hilltoppers have hope for Harlie

09/07/2016 07:54 PM

The Lady Hilltoppers swept rival Belmont Tuesday night, improving their record to 7-1 this season. The Bruins were undefeated heading into the match, but failed to win a single set in Diddle Arena. The Toppers played inspired volleyball- and one of their biggest sources of inspiration is their 10-year-old teammate.

“I don’t want it to be like this. I wish that she would go to school here and go to college here, but it’s truly amazing- the support that we have here and the fun that she has here is well worth it,” explained Lisa Bryant, standing in the tunnel of Diddle Arena. “It puts a smile on her face. Priceless,” added her husband, Jamie.

“She’s growing up. She was a little girl- a cute little girl and now she’s a 10-year-old,” said WKU head coach Travis Hudson.

It’s not every day you see a 10-year-old listed on a nationally ranked division 1 volleyball team’s roster.

“That wasn’t in the manual when I started coaching- that we’d ever have a 10-year-old, and ya know, if we did, I thought she’d have to be some kind of super star and that Harlie is, she’s definitely a super star,” Hudson explained.

Harlie Bryant- a member of the WKU Volleyball team, a student at Beaver Dam Elementary in Ohio County.

“4th grade, I’m 10 years old,” Harlie said.

You might wonder how Harlie became a Hilltopper at such a young age- and fate might be an appropriate answer.

“I was watching ‘Real Sports’ with Bryant Gumble on HBO and they did a feature story on a foundation called the Friends of Jacqueline Foundation [FOJ]. It matches up kids with pediatric brain tumors with collegiate sports teams and it was a really moving piece and I actually got on my computer that night and signed our team up,” Hudson explained.

“She was 5 years old, fixing to start kindergarten. We were doing an eye exam and they noticed a shake in her eye and we went to the doctor and it was April the first, 2011 when we found out she had a brain tumor,” explained Lisa, Harlie’s mother.

Players all agree that when they walk into Diddle Arena, it’s a special feeling. They also agree that when Harlie Bryant walks in- that’s pretty special, too.

“When I first met Harlie I thought she was super sassy and full of life. You know, for someone who has so much going on she was just always positive and had this great energy about her,” said Georgia O’Connell, a senior libero.

“She just came in the locker room one day and like Georgia said, she was so sassy and I just love having her on the team,” Kaelin Grimes, a senior defensive specialist, added.

“They make me stuff, and I love them,” Harlie added in with a smile.

Harlie is a vocal teammate, to say the least.

“She’ll come in our locker room and be like ‘you all’s serving needs to get better!‘’” O’Connell joked.

Harlie gets to do a lot of very cool things at WKU- she warms up and stretches with the team, has her own jersey and locker, her name is called with the starters, but she also misses out on a lot of typical childhood experiences.

“Since she has been sick, all of her birthdays were in the hospital doing chemo, or doing surgeries, so starting about two, three years ago, [Coach] Travis [Hudson] said ‘Ok, every birthday we’re going to have something,‘” Lisa told cn|2.

“So I rented out Diddle Arena and brought in inflatables, all these face paintings and tie-dye shirts and the whole deal and we decided that we were going to do it right and involved all the other athletic programs on our campus and it was a really beautiful time,” Hudson added.

Harlie was happy to see her Tops success last season, but she didn’t get to see the post season in person.

“I had a stroke,” she said matter-of-factly.

But even when Harlie was in Cincinnati getting care, her teammates still made sure she was included.

“I was in the hospital and they curled up around the computer [to Skype],” Harlie said with a smile.

For WKU, Harlie is motivation to fight to win each game.

“She sits right in the front so every time I see her I’m like, if she’s doing what she’s doing I definitely can get through this next pass,” O’Connell said.

“And if I’m struggling I’m like ‘ok, this is a volleyball game’ like she’s going through a lot more than I am. Definitely for sure, I can make it through a volleyball game if she can make it through whatever she’s going through,” Grimes added.

“We talk about overcoming things in athletics all the time and you see this little warrior that’s 10-years-old that faces this adversity with a smile on her face every day,” Hudson said.

But the Tops give Harlie something she needs, too: normalcy.

“Being here makes it better. So she’s not sick here, the girls play with her and they talk to her and it’s not ‘poor pitiful Harlie, are you ok?’ It’s ‘let’s go have fun,‘” Lisa added.

You can watch the full story below:

To follow Harlie’s progress on social media you can follow her at:

Twitter: @HopeForHarlie

Facebook: Hope for Harlie

Lyndsey Gough

Lyndsey Gough joined cn2 in August 2016 as a reporter for cn2 Sports. Before that, Lyndsey was a multimedia journalist, reporter, anchor and producer at WBKO-TV in Bowling Green, KY covering both news and sports. Lyndsey graduated from the University of Kentucky in May of 2015 after covering the Cats for 3 years for print, radio, and television for various outlets. She is excited to finally be covering sports full-time again here in the Bluegrass. You can follow Lyndsey on Twitter @lgough_cn2 and send story ideas her way.


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