After a rookie season marked by big adjustments caused by Covid-19, Alli O’Banion is geared up to coach her second season of college volleyball full bore.

O’Banion, who graduated from Dos Palos High in 2014, is entering her second year as the head volleyball coach at her alma mater, the University of Southern Arkansas.  As a player, she attained school records and all-conference honors for the Muleriders.  Now as the program’s coach, she will lead her squad in the season opener on Aug. 26. 

With Covid-19 hopefully in the rearview mirror, O’Banion can focus her attention on winning the Great American Conference title.  She said her players have been working diligently to prepare for the season.

“We have started preseason practices and are seeing some great things,” she said. “With our group of 20 players, we have depth and competition between every position.  I am very excited to see this group in action.”

The 20 players include 14 returners and six newcomers.  Leading the way will be setter Morgan Shuster.

“We are extremely excited to have Morgan run our new offense along with four transfers, Anna Crittenden, Lauryn Moultrie, Sakura Thomas, and Emily Lameu.”

She added that a pair of freshmen, Allie Cooper and Kendall Sadler, will be “difference makers” this season.

As the Mulerider season gets underway, O’Banion is extremely excited about the prospects and the diligence of her student-athletes.

“They’ve committed to getting better in the weight room.  They’ve committed to getting better in film and mental training and they’ve committed to getting better fundamentally,” said the coach.  “I am hoping to greatly improve, grow, develop and compete this fall, as we will be gunning for a spot in the GAC tournament that will take place in November.”

The University of Southern Arkansas is in Magnolia, Arkansas, which has a population of 12,000 and is close to the Texas border.    

Having graduated from SAU in 2018, O’Banion has fallen in love with the area.

“It’s so nice to be back in Magnolia again,” she said. “I really have enjoyed living here in the south.  It’s a great community with lots of agriculture, paper mills and oil drilling.  It feels a lot like good ol’ Dos Palos, California.”

Michael Martin