Hartley completes unexpected college journey
By Jonathan Bym, Editor
When coming to college most students have no idea what kinds of changes or obstacles they will face. Brea Hartley’s expectation versus reality of college was no different.
During her four years at UNCP, Hartley has overcome physical, mental and emotional challenges and finished a highly successful career on the softball team.
“If I could’ve guessed from freshman year to now would I expect it to be the way it is? Not a chance,” she said
As a freshman, the Lexington native suffered a shoulder injury that eventually grew worse the following year, and left her in pain doing everyday actions. A little hesitant of going through with the surgery, the new coaching and athletic training staff convinced her that she needed to go through with the surgery.
“I didn’t want to do it, and I was very stubborn not to do it,” Hartley said. “Just realizing how much pain I was in, not just for ball, but my daily activities. They all suggested going ahead and having the surgery.”
While coming back from the injury, Hartley had to hurdle the mental aspect of not trying too hard to injure herself again, with the doubt of not being able to come back as strong as she did hanging over her head.
“It was kind of funny because my sophomore season was one of my better seasons, so that was one of the reasons I didn’t want to do it,” she said. “Just mentally knowing that I could not be the same…that was kind of holding me back.”
Hartley was able to continue her strong play from her sophomore season into her junior year, earning first team all-conference both seasons. Despite being cleared to play, it still took a little adjusting to get back into the swing of things on the field.
“This was a whole new thing,” Hartley said. “I had to realize that I had major surgery and that I was starting at the bottom again and had to work my way up.”
After two seasons under coach Lacinda Melanson, Hartley and the other upperclassmen had to make the adjustment of playing under a new head coach in Brittany Bennett. Hartley admitted that it was rough goings to begin with, but now she is grateful of the change and her and Bennett look back now and laugh at when they didn’t see eye-to-eye.
“My relationship with Coach Bennett is something I cherish…from the beginning we butted heads,” Hartley said. “I guess it was me more so not wanting to give in to her ways. That’s one thing we joke about now.”
After starting off the year behind the plate, Hartley handed the catching duties over to freshman Toni Nelson, who caught for a majority of the season. Hartley said that she heard people saying that she should still be the starting catcher, but she showed maturity and bought into the system and played designated player and some right field to close the season.
“To me it’s not about if you are a senior or a freshman. It’s about the time and work you put into that position and who is better fit for the position,” Hartley said. “It’s a momentum thing that some people don’t understand, but if a team works better with a certain defensive set, then that’s what you want to keep.”
Honored as one of the finalists for the Outstanding Senior Award, Hartley was humbled with the recognition and the unexpected support she received.
“I was very taken back by it,” she said. “It means a lot to me that other people wrote the recommendations or had a take in nominating me. It’s very heartwarming.”
During her time as a Lady Brave, Hartley has been named to the all-conference team three times and garnered other awards for her play on the field, but she wants to be remembered in other ways by her teammates as her college career closes out.
“I’ve always wanted to be someone who wants to be remembered for what they did, not necessarily like the goals they achieved, but how they went about to achieve those,” she said. “People don’t necessarily remember those [accolades], they will remember how you were as a teammate. How you were and how you treated them personally.”
Photo by Stefanie Smith. Brea Hartley watches a pitch go by in a game earlier this season.