Above photo of Alli Pierce by Russell Marwitz/True to The Cru
BELTON- In an unexpected announcement Tuesday night, UMHB volleyball’s starting setter, Alli Pierce, said that she is stepping away from the sport after two seasons with the Cru.
“To the sport that I fell in love with when I was 7, thank you,” Pierce said Tuesday on Instagram. “To my teammates, thank you for your consistent love and grace. You have shown me what it takes to excel both on and off the court. I could not have overcome the many challenges thrown at me without y’all.
“This sport has meant so much to me literally my whole life. from not knowing if I would even play in college, to being the starting setter for one of the best teams in the nation. If you would have asked young Al if she would have ever imagined being at this point in her collegiate career, she would tell you ‘no’ and that she didn’t even want to play in college. God is so amazing for blessing me with the talents to have the opportunity to play in college for a program that is so elite. It has been the best experience representing UMHB on the court the past 2 seasons.
“There is so much that collegiate athletes go through that is unspoken of. One major topic is mental health. Many do not understand the toll being a collegiate athlete takes on one’s mental well-being. It is so important that athletes are seen as who they are wholly as a person instead of their athletic abilities. Even though stepping away from the game has been tough, I am so thankful and blessed to say that I am now focusing on finding my identity in Christ rather than in a temporary sport. It has been my greatest opportunity to serve The Lord while playing, and I am excited to find new ways to bring glory to His goodness.”
The Abilene, Texas native began her collegiate career at Austin College before coming to Belton prior to the 2020-21 season. She quickly took over as the team’s starting setter, playing all 57 sets as UMHB won the ASC Tournament Championship over UT-Dallas. Pierce finished as an ASC Honorable Mention honoree, having tallied 6.98 assists and 3.3 digs per set, along with a total of 20 service aces and eight kills.
As a junior this past fall, her level of play rose higher, ranking in the top five in assists per set in Region IX for much of the year. She saw action in 83 sets, playing in 25 of the team’s 26 matches, as UMHB posted a 24-2 record. The ASC named her Setter of the Year following a season that saw her dish out 9.51 assists per set, a total of 798 on the year. She added a team-high 45 service aces, and added 264 digs, which ranked fourth on the team.
“I think the big thing is that Alli has no ego,” UMHB head coach Mark Pryor said of Pierce during the 2021 season. “She just wants the team to do well and she is going to divide the ball as much as she can.”
Pierce had a memorable 50-assist, 28-dig performance in UMHB’s four-set win at UTD on Sept. 17, and teamed up with Kayla Janikula for a key block late in the fourth set before tallying on assist on Kylie Metcalf’s match-sealing kill.
A business marketing major, she was named to the 2020-21 ASC Academic All-Conference team. The 2021-22 academic honors have not yet been announced.
With Pierce as UMHB’s setter, the Cru was 39-4. There is certainly no doubt that Alli Pierce was critical in the Crusaders’ recent success. Having a high-level setter who facilitates the offense in the way Pierce did played a major role in UMHB’s .225 hitting percentage in 2021, the best mark in the conference.
But beyond her play on the court, Pierce brought an enthusiasm and motivation that helped fuel the team chemistry, which powered UMHB to 15 straight three-set sweeps to open the 2021 season.
Pryor’s comment to True To The Cru Tuesday night said it all: ”She was always willing to do whatever was necessary for the team to be successful. She is a fierce competitor, but completely selfless at the same time. That competitive nature will serve her well as she starts her career. She is going to be successful in whatever comes next for her.”
Riley Zayas is the managing editor of True To The Cru. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.