Barber crucial piece to rebuilding Marquette volleyball into top 10 program


Photo by Jordan Johnson

Senior Allie Barber (10) attempts a kill in Marquette's 3-0 sweep over the Green Bay Phoenix.

There was a time when senior outside hitter Allie Barber considered abandoning her volleyball career.

“I actually wanted to quit my first year because I was so bad,” Barber said. “I played basketball and I swam at the time, so I was so busy I didn’t really spend a lot of time on volleyball.”

Though she didn’t take an immediate liking to the sport, she is now a leader for Marquette volleyball. She is also a devoted student, one of the reasons she was chosen as a finalist for the 2019 volleyball Senior CLASS Award Oct. 25.

“I get to see all the people who are supporting me and really care to see me do well,” Barber said. “Overall I just feel so blessed.”

Barber was nominated as one of 10 finalists for the 2019 volleyball Senior CLASS Award recognizing NCAA Division I seniors for excellence in community, classroom, character and competition.

“The academic attitude, the athletic attitude. Just everything about her is exactly what you want in (the Senior CLASS) award,” Marquette head coach Theis said.  “She embodies it perfectly.”

One of the reasons the Cedarburg, Wisconsin, native committed to Marquette was because it gave her a balance of “great academics” and sports. Barber has been recognized for her achievements in the classroom as a two-time BIG EAST All-Academic honoree.

As a biomedical sciences major, Barber has maintained a 3.98 GPA despite traveling for volleyball.

“She’s really bright,” Theis said. “She didn’t tell us that. I had to start asking her about when she gets her results and what her grades were. … She’s academically gifted for sure.”

Besides studying hard, Barber said Marquette prepared her extremely well for the Medical College Admission Test. The MCAT is an almost eight-hour multiple choice exam that tests skills and knowledge that examinees must have as medical professionals, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

“Studying isn’t as much of a chore as it is interesting,” Barber said. “All the different classes I’ve taken, different professors have all helped shape my critical thinking, a skill I was really able to apply on the MCAT.”

After taking the exam this past May, Barber’s score was in the 98th percentile.

“(The MCAT) was six months of studying,” Barber said. “It boils down to one day, you can have a good day or a bad day. Luckily I did well.”

Unlike fellow graduates Jenna Rosenthal and Anna Haak, Barber said she does not want to play professionally. She wants to attend medical school, which Barber said is a rigorous process consisting of taking the MCAT, completing applications and secondary applications, writing essays, requesting letters of recommendations from professors and managing interview invitations.

“I’m in the process right now of interviewing,” Barber said. “I applied to a bunch (of schools) on the east coast and in the Midwest-area.”

She said she wants to go into orthopedic surgery and sports medicine, which is what she’s been around the most.

When she’s not at the Al McGuire Center, Barber also volunteers at Aurora Sinai Medical Center about a block north of campus.

“I’m working with the HELP program, which is the Hospital Elder Life Program,” Barber said. “It’s preventing delirium with elderly patients who are in the hospital for a while.”

Barber said Marquette has shaped her as a person, making her more compassionate and caring due to its values and “cura personalis,” which translates to “care for the whole person.”

The Cedarburg, Wisconsin, native has progressed on the court as well.

“I’ve watched (my recruiting video) and was like, ‘Why did anyone ever decide to recruit me because I was so bad,’” Barber said. “I’ve also grown a lot as a person and become more outgoing and more of a leader.”

When Barber arrived at Marquette, she was a middle hitter, not an outside hitter.

“She evolved into a right side and then that first spring became a left side hitter,” Theis said. “She really evolved through almost three positions through the span of a year.”

As a Golden Eagle, the 6-foot-5 outside hitter has built a lengthy resume. In 2016, she was Co-Freshman of the Year and part of the All-BIG EAST First Team. As a sophomore in 2017, she was a unanimous All-BIG EAST First Team honoree, BIG EAST Player of the Year, an American Volleyball Coaches Association All-East Coast Region member and AVCA Honorable Mention All-American.

Last season she was an AVCA Second-Team All-American, AVCA East-Coast Region Player of the Year and a part of the All-Conference First Team.

“Some smaller outside hitters might need a four-step approach to jump and be able to hit a high, hard ball and she just doesn’t need that much of a runway because of her physicality and size,” Theis said. “She can get into an attacking position quicker than almost anybody else that size, which is what makes her so good.”

Barber doesn’t serve often due to the team’s rotations, but Theis said her serve is extremely effective, especially when she defends behind it.

“We used it in some pretty pivotal moments this year,” Theis said. “She can’t serve 700 balls a day and then swing at 100, her arm’s going to fall off at some point.”

Barber said she leads by example on the court. While fellow senior setter Lauren Speckman is the vocal leader on the floor, Barber said she’s tried to become a bigger vocal leader this season.

“Between the two of us, we really try to take charge and help everyone else on the team with what’s going on (and) planning,” Barber said.

“She’s a terrific leader,” Theis said. “When you’ve got one of the best players in the country believing in what’s right, making good decisions on and off the court and having good relationships with teammates and trying to help teammates in need, it’s a terrific combination.”

While making it to the Sweet 16 last season was something Barber said she’ll remember forever, her favorite memory from 2019 was beating then-No. 4 Wisconsin in Madison.

While Barber’s team goals align with her teammates’ — trying to make it as far as possible — her personal goal is to live in the moment.

“Time is limited, and, unfortunately, I won’t get to play volleyball (next season),” Barber said. “So right now, I’m just trying to make the most of what I have.”

Barber is currently on track to be the program’s all-time leading scorer. She is 3rd all-time on Marquette’s kill list with 1,710 kills, just 23 kills away from surpassing current all-time kills leader and Marquette Hall of Famer Theresa Coughlin, who has 1,733 kills.

Theis said Barber has been a crucial part of transforming Marquette into a top-10 program.

“Her ability to score points is better than just about anybody out there in the country,” Theis said.

Moving forward, Theis will see another Barber on the floor, but she’ll be in a Villanova uniform. Allie’s younger sister Maddie is a Villanova volleyball commit for the class of 2024. The two sisters are incredibly close.

“We didn’t always used to be (this close),” Allie said. “As we got older, I don’t know why we ever (fought) because we’re like the same person.”

Theis said it will be weird playing against Allie’s sister in future years. He said in less than two weeks, Maddie will come to the Nov. 15 Georgetown match wearing a Marquette shirt and the next day she’ll come wearing a Villanova shirt.

“We have a great relationship with her family, and her sister going to Villanova leads to some jokes,” Theis said.

Allie said her mom was her first inspiration to continue playing volleyball since she convinced Allie to stay in the sport one more year back when she started.

“She’s like, ‘You might like it, just stick with it,’” Allie said. “I’m so grateful I did.”