Ex-Vuls standout Hurley concentrates on volleyball in a well-traveled life overseas

  • As a UHH Vulcan, Hillary Hurley, a 6-foot-2 outside hitter, was the PacWest Player of the Year as a junior and made the first team in her senior year in 2011. (University of Hawaii-Hilo Athletic Department/Courtesy Photo)

  • Hillary Hurley has played professional volleyball in nine different countries since 2012 — including twice in Finland. She and her husband, Luke Reynolds, are based in Poland. “Playing overseas for so long now has been fun and eye opening,” Hurley. “It helps you see the world with a more open mind. I feel like I take a piece of every country with me as I go." (Hillary Hurley/Courtesy Photo)

Hillary Hurley was a versatile shining star during her time at UH-Hilo, playing basketball and volleyball and dominating at both.

She landed on the All-PacWest first team for basketball in her junior and senior seasons.

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For volleyball, the 6-foot-2 outside hitter was the Player of the Year as a junior and made the first team in her senior year in 2011.

In the curious case of where are they now?, Hurley, 30, is living the well-traveled life of a pro volleyball player, and her destinations read like a bucket list.

She played in Sweden from 2012-14, Finland (2014-15), Puerto Rico (2015), Switzerland (2015-16), Finland (2016), South Korea (2016-17), Philippines (2017-18), Italy (2018-19) and Poland (2019-20).

“Playing overseas for so long now has been fun and eye opening,” Hurley said from Poland. “It helps you see the world with a more open mind. I feel like I take a piece of every country with me as I go.

“I changed teams and countries a lot because I always want to challenge myself and take what new opportunities come my way. It has helped me continue to develop as a player and person.”

As a pro, it’s a lot of time spent in the gym and the people and places always stick out.

Hurley figured she spends the bulk of her time in a gym, attending two practices and the rest forming friendships with her teammates. It’s even better if they’re local and can show her places to sides of the country a tourist wouldn’t normally visit.

She called Finland, despite being a two-time destination, the most challenging because of the cold climate.

“Finland was the most difficult just because of the weather. The volleyball was great but it was snowing for most of the season,” she said. “We only got an hour or two of sunlight a day, so I struggled mentally with that. I really enjoyed the people and playing.

“I loved playing in Italy. They are a big-time volleyball country, and the level is really high. Plus, the lifestyle is contagious, and the people were beyond amazing. That was the best of both volleyball and life for me.”

She’s picked up enough of different languages to order food and survive during practice when no one else speaks English.

A typical day runs like this: coffee and breakfast in the morning. First practice at 9 a.m., followed by weight lifting and ball-control drills and home for lunch. Chill with Netflix and chat with family and friends, grab a snack and head out to second practice from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. on a court. Then it’s home for dinner and unwind before bed. Then she wakes up and does it all over again.

Depending on a league schedule, matches are played once, twice or more a week in international tournaments. The season runs from August to May, and repeats itself for the next year.

Hurley has experienced a lot of success but a championship has remained elusive.

“Every team I’ve been on has made it to the playoffs,” she said. “I’ve snatched three silver medals, but I’m still chasing that gold.”

The best picture-perfect postcard locales are Switzerland, Italy and the islands of the Philippines.

She married her husband Luke Reynolds, a pro coach in Europe and for the Australian national team, in 2018. They’re based in Poland, but Hurley is from Anderson, Calif., and Reynolds from Australia.

“Home will always be in California where my family is,” she said. “That’s home base for at least two months out of the year. The rest is overseas.

“The downside is not having a place to call your own, a place to build a life and always come back to. But that’s what we are working on now. The positives are endless though. I’ve seen more of the world than I ever thought possible and have been able to follow my dreams along the way. Volleyball has opened so many doors for me and shaped me into the very eclectic person I am today.”

She’s still in touch with former UHH teammate Laura Thompson, the Piopio Bears club coach, who attended Hurley’s wedding on Oahu in 2018.

“Laura Thompson is one of my best friends. She’s more like family,” Hurley said. “The rest of the girls keep in touch through Facebook. We’re all scattered around now. But Hilo bonded us all for life.

“Hilo is insanely beautiful. I can still remember going on countless beach cruises with Laura Thompson and just feeling so blessed to be living there. The people were so beautiful and welcoming. I really felt at home there. There is so much love in Hilo and the islands.”

Hurley and her husband have thought about children. It’s more likely than not that they’ll be volleyball players.

“Hopefully, we can make a home base in Poland for a while and in the next couple of years start making some babies also known as future Hilo Vulcans,” she said.

She also knows she’s closer to the end of her career than the beginning. She’s in great shape and her fire for the game burns bright.

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“I keep saying one or two more seasons every year, so who really knows,” she said. “I’ll keep playing until my body fully gives out, knock on wood.

“The best thing is being able to follow my passion for volleyball all over the world. It has helped me continue to develop as a player and person. It’s truly the best of both worlds.”

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