Music background helps Allison orchestrate offense
Oct. 14, 2010
Georgia Latcham, Texas Media Relations
What do volleyball and a drumline have in common? According to Texas freshman Hannah Allison it’s rhythm.
Allison was a drummer in her high school’s band and has been able to apply that experience to volleyball.
“I personally think there are similarities between volleyball and drumline because there is so much rhythm in volleyball,” Allison explained. “Between passing and setting and hitting there is a rhythm and when you get in a rhythm it's smooth and it's easy and it's not hectic when your play is in rhythm. You can feel that, you can tell when it's in rhythm or when it's kind of messed up.”
The No. 11 Longhorns have pieced together a three-match winning streak heading into Saturday’s matchup with Texas Tech, and Allison -- and the rhythm and tempo she provides -- has been a crucial element.
In a road victory against Kansas State last weekend, three UT players hit at least .500 for the match, and in a four-set win at Oklahoma on Wednesday night, Allison used 56 assists to set up five players with double-digit kills.
“She’s growing up a lot,” head coach Jerritt Elliott says of Allison. “She’s more consistent now than at the beginning of the season. We knew that as the season would progress she would get better. She didn’t have a lot of experience, but she’s a phenomenal athlete and really wants to learn and grow.”
Elliott attributes part of that growth to Allison’s relationship with assistant coach and setting specialist Salima Rockwell. A former All-American herself, Rockwell provides constant feedback and keeps Allison aware of set distribution that balances the offense.
Which is why rhythm is so important for Allison’s role on the team. As a setter, she orchestrates the team’s offense, helps make decisions on play calls and manages the game. The setter is naturally put in a leadership position, even if you’re a freshman.
“It's hard to come in and start bossing people around,” Allison said.
Allison, realizing that the transition into a leadership role on a collegiate team could be a challenge, chose to enroll at UT in Spring 2010, a semester early.
“It's similar to a quarterback coming early,” Allison said. “It's harder for a new quarterback to just step in and play. It's similar for a setter, like the quarterback needs to understand the system and have an idea about what's going on all the time.”
Though Allison, a two-time Gatorade Arkansas Volleyball Player of the Year, knew it was a necessary move, it was not an easy decision.
“It took me a while to decide what I wanted to do,” Allison said. “I made a lot of pros and cons lists. What would be the advantages of leaving versus what would I miss out on and if that would really affect me or not in my last semester of high school, but I think I was ready to leave. There were so many benefits of coming early that it was going to be worth it.”
Her teammates think it was worth it. Not only has it given the starting setter time to understand the Texas way, but also allowed her to bond with teammates.
“I think her coming in early and getting some experience was really good for her,” senior Juliann Faucette said. “Obviously, her being the starting setter for us is a big role as a freshman. That spring semester really did help her. I saw her grow a lot personality wise and physically, which is really cool. She’s actually become one of my closest friends.”
The development of relationships and chemistry is a key part of any sport. Knowing a teammate’s personality and how they perform at their best and their worst can make or break a team. However, it’s a process that takes time.
“You can’t press that when you come in the fall because you’re busy with the season and in preseason, and it’s hard to build relationships,” Allison explained. “The spring is more laid back and you get that quality time with your teammates that you can build on and that transfers to so many things on court.”
Reading the game is what the Arkansas native cites as her biggest improvement, and it is something she continues to work on, but when asked what the best part of being at Texas was, it was not the improvement of her skills. It was the friendships she has made.
“The best part has been getting to know my teammates and growing to love them, and the closeness that we have,” Allison said. “I didn’t expect how close this team would be. I’ve never been closer to my teammates on any team I’ve been on in my life.”