Ali Line attended the Missouri Valley Conference awards banquet in late-November not expecting her name to be called.
But a look at Line’s statistics from her first season of college volleyball shows why it was.
The 6-foot-1 middle hitter took home the MVC Freshman of the Year plaque after helping Illinois State University post its sixth consecutive winning season with a 22-10 record.
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The Daily Journal’s 2014 Player of the Year after delivering 426 kills as a Center Grove High School senior, Line again found herself recognized for her performance and dedication.
“I was pretty surprised when they called my name,” Line said. “I had won Freshman of the Week once in our conference, but throughout the season I thought (Freshman of the Year) was something that was out of my reach.
“It was never a goal.”
Line was fifth among Red Birds’ players in kills with 182 and second in blocks with 76. Her season-best numbers came against Loyola of Chicago and Evansville (11 kills in each match), Jacksonville (nine blocks) and Drake (three digs).
Line proved remarkably consistent while producing between five and 11 kills in 23 of the 29 matches she played in this season. Her .306 hitting percentage ranked 10th among all MVC players and first among conference freshmen.
This isn’t to imply it was all easy.
A sprained ankle suffered during preseason workouts slowed Line at the outset of Illinois State’s season as she didn’t play in the team’s first two matches. She later found herself battling mononucleosis, which for a time diminished her strength.
Neither setback affected Line’s eagerness to compete.
“Ali just has such an incredible work ethic. She came here with a plan and is one of the most consistent players on our team,” eighth-year Red Birds coach Melissa Myers said. “You know what you’re going to get every practice and every match.”
Homesickness also proved to be an issue initially, though Line, a nursing major, says her parents and siblings made the three-hour drive to the Illinois State campus for home matches as often as they could.
“I was pretty homesick because I didn’t come home until Thanksgiving Break. My family was able to come to a lot of my home matches and our matches at Evansville and Indiana State,” said Line, who is determined to make herself a better blocker between now and the start of the 2016 volleyball season.
“As a player I have a lot of room for improvement, but I’m proud of the season I had. This award is motivation to keep working hard.”
THE LINE FILE
Name: Ali Line
Family: Parents, Don and Jeri-Lyn; brothers, Trent, 17, and Cam, 15; sister, Anna, 14
High school: Center Grove H.S. – 2015
College: Illinois State University