It was an opportunity of a lifetime that Haley Gilbert just couldn’t pass up.
Gilbert tagged along with her older sisters, Jenna and Alyssa, on a week-long trip to Cuba earlier this summer.
The siblings knew this could be their only chance to visit the island nation, and they took advantage.
“About three weeks after we had booked our (plane) tickets, President Trump released a new Cuba policy. My dad told us that we needed to do some research and see if it was a possibility for us to go,” Haley said. “We looked into it, and there were 12 reasons that allowed (someone) to go into the country. We used ‘education’ as our reason. You can’t go for a vacation.”
The siblings stayed in the capital city of Havana for three days, a visit that included a tour of Morro Castle, a historic fortress guarding the entrance to Havana Bay. They then went to Varadero, a tourist resort town on the northern coast of the island, for some swimming and beach time. They spent the last three days of their trip in Cienfuegos, a waterfront city on the southern coast, where they immersed themselves in a vibrant city festival.
“It was an amazing trip,” Haley said. “I learned a lot about the culture. It was really fun being with my sisters; we had a good bonding experience.”
Now Gilbert is hoping to take advantage of more opportunities as a senior at Kamiak High School this fall. She’s had a decorated volleyball career as the Knights’ libero (she earned first-team all-Wesco 4A honors last season), and she’s hoping to bring her prep career to a satisfying conclusion.
“This year I want to leave everything I have on the court, because I’m not planning on playing in college,” she said. “I didn’t play on my club team this year, so I have to work on getting my game back to where it was last season. Hopefully it will come quickly.”
After playing several positions when she was younger, Gilbert found her permanent spot when she was a seventh-grader, playing for Shoreline-based All Out Volleyball. She’s flourished in the libero position ever since; last season she recorded 378 digs (5.64 per set) and an .853 dig percentage.
“She has an ability to read (opposing) hitters,” said Kamiak coach Greg Post. “She’s able to move to a spot, stay on her feet, get a good platform underneath the ball and put up a good dig consistently.”
Post said Gilbert has improved as an all-around player during the past several seasons. Last season, she converted 96 percent of her serves and recorded 35 aces.
“She has worked on her serving placement, and she can pick apart opponents with her serve,” he said. “She’s become more calm. She has poise and composure, and that permeates down to the rest of the team. She has what I call a chronic pleasant disposition. She’s an emotional stabilizer.”
Gilbert hasn’t decided on a college, but said she’s interested in studying criminal justice and/or forensic science.
“All throughout school, science has been my favorite subject,” she said. “I watch the crime shows on television and find them super interesting. Last year I took a forensic science class, and everything about it was fascinating to me. One of the things we did was fingerprinting, and even now, when I leave a print on my phone screen, I’ll look at it and say, ‘I see a bridge here or a fork there.’”