Line continues to excel for Red Birds

At some point, Ali Line developed the ability to make the overwhelming appear easy.

Take the Center Grove High School graduate’s transition from high school volleyball to becoming a formidable presence at the Division I level at Illinois State University.

Sixteen months ago, Line sprained an ankle during summer workouts with her new teammates. Even while in pain, Line, a 6-foot-1 middle blocker, went on to finish her workout, according to ISU head coach Melissa Myers.

It wasn’t long after that Line was diagnosed with mononucleosis.

She recovered, came back strong and went on to earn Missouri Valley Conference Freshman of the Year honors and her team’s Kelly Meisner Courage Award.

A nursing major, Line, who holds down a 4.0 grade-point average, also picked up the MVC Commissioner’s Academic Excellence Award.

In a position to rest on her laurels, Line hasn’t.

“After a successful freshman season, sometimes that sophomore year can be challenging because expectations have been raised and the opponents now know you and can prepare better for you,” Myers said. “But Ali doesn’t focus on others or others’ expectations.

“She focuses on the things that are in her control and are most important to her performance. She makes herself available on every play, has worked tirelessly on improving her blocking and limits distractions and focuses her time and energy on what is going to make her a more productive player.”

Accustomed to athletic and academic honors from being a four-year starter at Center Grove — she was the Daily Journal’s Female Athlete of the Year in 2015 — Line in no way takes them for granted.

“There are a lot of great student-athletes in this conference, so I’m always kind of surprised,” said Line, who started 25 of ISU’s 29 matches as a freshman and has started all 14 this season.

“I really appreciate everything because it’s such a competitive conference, and it’s good motivation for years to come.”

Line admits sharpening her time management skills was somewhat daunting at first given the amount of road trips the volleyball program experiences over the course of a season.

Her freshman season alone had the Red Birds playing matches in six different states by the time September was over.

On the court, Line needed time to adjust to the pace at which D-I volleyball is played.

“The biggest difference this season is having that experience on the court,” said Line, who two weeks ago was named MVC female Scholar-Athlete of the Week. “I have so much confidence because I’ve played at this level and I’ve played at this speed.

“That was the biggest difference, because the ball control in college volleyball is better.”

Myers, now in her ninth season at ISU, has already coached 25 All-Missouri Valley Conference players for the Red Birds.

Line, one of only two players on the current Illinois State roster from an Indiana high school — junior middle blocker Annchara Montgomery of Lawrence North being the other — is working toward someday adding to that list.

“Ali is a workhorse. She outworks everyone in the gym and is a great teammate throughout the process,” Myers said. “She’s every coach’s dream and someone everyone wants to train and play with.

“Her value to our team and program is immeasurable.”

Old college try

Below are Ali Line’s statistics as a middle blocker for the Illinois State University volleyball program:

*2016 season

Matches;Kills;Blocks;Digs

14;116;35;12

2015 season

Matches;Kills;Blocks;Digs

32;182;76;17

*Through Friday night’s match against Loyola

Author photo
Mike Beas is a sports writer for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at mbeas@dailyjournal.net.