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Outside hitter Barber sets historic pace for volleyball

Sophomore+outside+hitter+Allie+Barber+is+averaging+nearly+five+kills+per+set+this+year.
Sophomore outside hitter Allie Barber is averaging nearly five kills per set this year.

Sophomore outside hitter Allie Barber is averaging nearly five kills per set this year.

Photo by Maggie Bean

Photo by Maggie Bean

Sophomore outside hitter Allie Barber is averaging nearly five kills per set this year.

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Allie Barber has always been athletic. Growing up she was a swimmer, a basketball player and a volleyball player, but liked volleyball the least.

Barber wanted to give up the sport after her first year at the club level but her mother persuaded her to continue playing. Volleyball quickly grew on Barber to the point where she dropped swimming to focus on it.

“I liked volleyball better,” Barber said. “I liked basketball a lot too, but it in volleyball I felt it was more of team sport. You really rely on all your teammates, and I really just liked the atmosphere of volleyball better. … It was a hard decision, but in the end, I’m happy I stuck with volleyball.”

Picking up volleyball was no easy task, but challenges have always excited Barber. She eventually got good enough to play on an eighth grade club team that reached the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) nationals. A few college coaches were impressed with Barber’s play and invited her to several different camps.

“That is when I first realized, ‘Wow, I could really do something with this and actually play a sport in college,’” Barber said. “Being the oldest in my family, I wasn’t looking at that time to play in college. I always wanted to, but I didn’t realize how soon it would be a reality.”

Volleyball, however, was not the only sport Barber had potential to play in college. She became a force on the basketball court as well. When high school began, Barber made the decision to focus on volleyball to try and get a scholarship.

Barber came on a visit to Marquette and fell in love with the school, eventually deciding to accept an offer to play for the Golden Eagles as a middle blocker.

Heading into the 2016 season, Marquette’s roster was already stacked with middles like senior Meghan Niemann and then-sophomore Jenna Rosenthal. Initially, the plan was to have Barber redshirt her freshman year, but head coach Ryan Theis gave Barber an alternative: play outside hitter. Barber accepted the challenge of changing positions.

“It was definitely exciting to be able to be on the court and playing, but at times there would be things where I wasn’t the exactly the most comfortable,” Barber said. “I don’t know if I was necessarily nervous, but it wasn’t always the most comfortable position.”

Day after day, Barber worked at her new position. She grew more comfortable and finished the season with the fourth-most kills on the team. Then, another challenge was thrown her way.

Prior to the start of the 2017 volleyball season, starting outside hitter Taylor Louis transferred from Marquette to Iowa. The transfer left a huge hole in the Golden Eagles’ offense, as Louis accounted for a team-high 537 kills the prior season.

Following the departure, Theis called the team together for a meeting to discuss each player’s role going forward. Theis told Barber she would have to make the biggest jump from last season and would need to contribute at least five points a set.

“I knew I would definitely have to step up my game and bring some more to the offense,” Barber said. “I knew it was going to take a lot of hard work and a lot of effort in the spring to get to where we are now.”

So far, Barber has contributed five points per set during most sets. Barber’s 433 kills lead the BIG EAST and is fifth most in the nation. This past weekend, Barber recorded a career-high 30 kills in one match against Seton Hall. What is most impressive is her team-high .367 hitting percentage, a rare feat.

“Her contact point is so high that it is just challenging for people to defend,” Theis said. “She doesn’t error (sic) a lot because of how high she is contacting the ball. … The key to being a successful hitter is learning when you can and can’t hit it, so she is constantly working and learning that.”

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