Ladies college volleyball does not get started until August, but that does not mean that Alli O’Banion will be relaxing.
A Dos Palos native, O’Banion was recently named as the new head volleyball coach at her alma mater, Southern Arkansas University. That means that she is hitting the ground running in her quest to turn around the Mulerider program.
“Our committee did an outstanding job orchestrating an extensive search in finding our next head coach of the Mulerider Volleyball program,” said Athletic Director Steve Browning in a release from the college’s athletic department. “We are very familiar with Alli’s playing career and the success she had as a Mulerider, but it was also important for us to see the success she has had since leaving Magnolia. She encompasses who we are here at SAU and she understands what it means to be a Mulerider. We are very excited to bring her back home.”
Her return to Southern Arkansas, which is located in Magnolia, Arkansas, means that she has come “full circle,” she said.
After graduating from Dos Palos High in 2014, O’Banion spent four years at SAU. She is one of just two players in the volleyball program to eclipse 1,000 kills and 300 total blocks and received All Conference honors three times.
The ‘circle’ continued after she graduated. She began her coaching career as an intern at a Utah High School while also coaching club volleyball. She then spent two seasons as an assistant coach at Ouachita Baptist College in Arkansas. Her next stop was in Miami, Oklahoma, where she was the head volleyball coach at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M, a junior college.
In two seasons there, her team compiled a record of 32-17 while earning back-to-back Region II titles.
When the volleyball job opened up at SAU O’Banion jumped at the opportunity.
“When it opened up, I figured I better apply,” she said. “I came down on a Monday for an interview, and on Friday I was offered the position.”
She noted that her previous coaching experience will be a big plus as she gets started.
“I have grown a ton since I graduated from here,” she explained. “And I do believe I am ready.”
SAU is an NCAA Div. II college that competes in the Great American Conference. O’Banion is looking at 17 returners to anchor her squad.
“The girls will return to school on Jan. 12 and I am getting everything in order for their arrival,” she explained. She noted that the college has increased scholarships and also is planning to add more assistant coaches.
O’Banion will be busy recruiting and preparing the returners for the start of the volleyball season.
“I am extremely excited,” she said. “I have paid my dues as an assistant and a JC coach, and now I am back home. We have a lot of work to do. The team has not done very well the last few years, so I want to turn this program around.”
O’Banion received her bachelor’s degree in sports management & human performance from SAU. Two years later, she earned a master’s in sports administration from Henderson State University, which is also located in Arkansas.