The Daily Illini

Illinois adds all-star setter to team

By Gabby Hajduk, Staff Writer

Less than four years ago, Illinois setter Mica Allison committed to play collegiate volleyball at Auburn University, about 10 hours from her home in central Illinois.

Allison loved Auburn and its beauty when she stepped on campus last summer.

She headed into Auburn with an impressive resume: 2018 USA Volleyball Women’s Junior National Team member and 2017 Illinois Volleyball Gatorade Player of the Year to name a few. A talented setter from a young age, Allison succeeded at Auburn as expected.

As the top setter, Allison started all 28 matches for the Tigers and dished out 1,055 assists while also adding 79 kills. Her freshman season was the fifth-best season for a setter in Auburn’s history. Allison was also named to the Southeastern Conference All-Freshman Team.

Despite the success and her energetic attitude on the court, as Allison’s year in Auburn progressed, she noticed something was missing.

“I did love Auburn, the school itself. I thought it was beautiful. I love the south,” Allison said. “But once I got there, I wanted to be back home.”

Nearly four months ago, Allison made the decision to come back home.

Coming from a tight-knit family, Allison felt out of place being away from them.

With a mother who played collegiate volleyball at the University of Central Florida and a sister who plays collegiate softball at Toledo, Allison has plenty of support from her family. Her motivation always comes from her athletic family, she said, as well as her older brother who passed away in 2016.

“My parents have always been on me to be the best I can be,” Allison said. “In high school, we did make a lot of sacrifices to be able to play club and be gone every single weekend. My brother passed away a couple of years ago so that’s definitely one of the things keeping me going these days. Just knowing he’s there and he’s helping me through everything I do.”

After overcoming plenty of challenges, Allison is finally in the place she wants to be: home. Once Allison entered the transfer portal in December, she asked her former Illini Elite club coaches to talk to Illinois head coach Chris Tamas. Just days after, Tamas called Allison, and the transfer happened.

Now, with a few months at Illinois under her belt, Allison has meshed with the former Final Four team well. Allison said the transition from Auburn to Illinois has been incredibly easy, thanks to her new teammates and coaches.

“Ever since I stepped on campus, I felt like it was home, and obviously it is home,” Allison said. “The girls are so nice and I love them so much. I get along with every single one of them so well. They’re just fun to be around. I’m always wanting to be around them. The coaches, obviously, are all amazing and just want the best for us so that’s also been very easy.”

Creating friendships with her teammates didn’t take long, and Allison believes getting to know the team on the court was just as simple.

Being able to play through a short spring season with the Illini, Allison already feels comfortable with everyone as the coaching staff has toyed with the lineups a lot this spring. Allison said the coaches have taught her new things as a setter, and she is excited to keep practicing and improving.

While Allison came from a large SEC school, the setter believes the competition in the SEC just isn’t the same as in the Big Ten, but she’s ready for the jump.

“I definitely think it was good to be on the court at a collegiate level,” Allison said. “The Big Ten is more known for being big, powerhouse volleyball schools. So maybe the competition (at Auburn) wasn’t the same as it is in the Big Ten, but I still think it helped to be on the court and be a leader in a setting position.”

Allison is ready to compete at the Big Ten level but is still not guaranteed the starting setter position. The 6-foot-1 setter will be competing with redshirt freshman Diana Brown for the job. Brown, while not seeing action last season, studied under the 2018 Big Ten Co-Setter of the Year Jordyn Poulter.

Not only is Allison in a tight competition with Brown if she were to earn the starting job, but Allison would also succeed former setter Poulter who graduated after the 2018 season. However, Allison said Tamas has assured her there is no comparison between her and Poulter.

“One of the main things Chris (Tamas) said when I was coming in was, ‘You’re your own player. You’re not Jordyn Poulter,’” Allison said. “Just kind of making me know I’m not going to get compared to her or anything. She is obviously one of the greatest setters there is so that’s definitely big shoes to fill, but I don’t put any pressure on myself.”

While Allison isn’t Poulter, the sophomore is already making a name for herself. Last month, Allison and teammate Jacqueline Quade were named to the 12-player U.S. Women’s Collegiate National Team Japan Tour. After touring Japan May 19-30, Allison will return for the summer and continue preparing for the 2019 season on her home grounds.

@gabby_h11

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