Conversation: Alyson Jennings
This season, freshman libero Alyson Jennings has made an immediate impact on the Texas volleyball team with her outstanding defense and hard-nosed play. The shortest player on the roster, the 5'9" Jennings has made her contribution stand as tall as the tallest, with her team-leading 3.47 digs/game. A native of California, her laid-back attitude and outgoing personality have been sources of calmness and leadership, so far this season. Recently TexasSports.com caught up with Jennings to talk with her about her transition to college life, the Florida win, her love of the beach and how stoked she is to be at Texas.
You have now been in Austin for a couple months. How has the transition been from life at home (Costa Mesa, Calif.) to life on campus?
AJ: Life on campus is very different from life at home. There are so many more people around and all of the people in Texas are much friendlier than in California. The weather is another of the differences from home, and then there are a bunch of other little silly things. There are quite a few things in town that do remind me of California, and that has made it easier to adjust to college life. All of the people and their helpfulness have really made it an easy transition for me in my first few months on campus. Overall I really love it here in Austin.
The shift from California to Texas is obviously quite large. What aspects of Austin have you embraced so far, and what do you miss most about California?
AJ: Again, the people here are so nice and I really like the fact that a person walking down the street that is a total stranger will say, "Hi! How are you doing?" There are several things that I miss about California, but the thing I miss the most are my friends, who are like sisters to me. I miss the beach as well, although, I don't really go during the winter. I still miss having it around if I want to go relax or hang out.
In your first season on the Forty Acres you have had to transition into the libero position from the outside hitter and setter positions you played in high school. Talk a little about this change and how you have managed to adapt so well to your new position.
AJ: I have always liked playing defense better, and I feel like that it is the strongest part of my game. It has not been that hard of a transition to the libero position because of the experience that I had playing two positions in high school. I really love playing defense and I am more than willing to leave the hitting up to the rest of the team. As the libero, I try to bring a lot of energy and excitement to the court and I always have funny things to say in the huddle to try and get everyone excited.
The team is off to a great start so far this season with an unblemished record, and it is great that Texas volleyball has returned to prominence. Explain what it means to you to be on this team and playing a major role in just your first season.
AJ: I'm am so stoked to be here and this year has been so crazy and fun. It just recently hit me that what we are doing is 'big time.' I think it took me until then to realize that I am playing for The University of Texas and that what we are doing is really important. I love my teammates and I look forward to coming to practice everyday and spending time with all of them.
Last week (Sept. 29), the team went to the University of Florida, played in one of the most hostile environments in college volleyball and came out with a win. Talk a little about how important that win was for the team and what you personally took away from such a big win.
AJ: After preparing so hard for the season and listening to (Head Coach) Jerritt (Elliott) talk to us about the match, Michelle (Moriarty) and I got really fired up, and the team as a whole came into the match really focused. We came out really well in the Florida match and I think that win inspired all of us to continue working hard in practice because we know that the harder we work the better we will finish. Playing a team like Florida and playing at such a high level is a great learning tool for both myself and the team as we continue to learn more about the game and more about competing at a high level.
The team's success this year has to help increase team camaraderie, which has been high all season. How have the relationships that you and the rest of the team have formed contributed to the successes of the team on the court? How have you personally translated relationships that you have with your teammates off the court into sources of unity on the court?
AJ: The fact that we get along so well off of the court shows on the court. All of us really care about each other a lot, and if any of us ever need anything we know that we can go down the hall in the dorm or call someone to talk about anything that might be on our minds. Those relationships translate into trust on the court, and I personally know that I do not want to let my teammates down. The trust that we all have in one another and the fact that we all get along helps keep us united on and off the court.
In the last conversation we spoke with Brandy Magee - another Orange County native - about life in the O.C. Continuing with that tradition, how would you describe life in the O.C., in comparison to the drama filled lives of the Cohens and Coopers that are portrayed on Fox's wildly popular television show.
AJ: Sometimes I will be watching the show at home and then something will happen in my life and I will say to myself, "Wow! This is totally O.C.," and I could see them making a show about what just happened in my life. The producer (McG) is a family friend and he has gotten some ideas from my friends and I for the show, but none of the drama-filled scenes come from us. Overall, I don't really think that life in the O.C. is as dramatic as what is shown on television. The O.C. to me is very mellow, as everyone rides their bikes to the beach in the summer, and goes out with friends, in boats to wakeboard or kneeboard. Summer in the O.C. is the best!
Fact Attack: Alyson Jennings
Favorite Place in Austin? Hula Hut, for the queso
Volleyball: In the sand / On the court: On the court, but in the sand during the summer
If you're not on the court you're… sleeping, eating or shopping
Which reality show would you be on? The Real World (I wish I had been on the San Diego season)
You would rather be… at the beach back home or on the lake here in Austin
Dinner for four. Who is there, dead or alive? Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, and my friend Kristen
What did you eat for dinner last night? Pepperoni pizza from Domino's, with ranch dressing
What is in your CD player right now? I'm listening to Fleetwood Mac, Ashley Simpson ("I'm such a dork") and Pete Murray.
Neat / Messy: Both. Michelle (Moriarty) and I keep our room pretty clean, and when it does get messy we don't let it stay messy very long.
When you think of The University of Texas, you think? How proud I am to play here