Hambly: Transfer is 'huge addition'
CHAMPAIGN — Allison Palmer, a record-setting setter at Arizona State, has joined the Illinois volleyball program.
The redshirt sophomore sat out the 2013 season while continuing to attend ASU in order to be immediately eligible upon transferring. Palmer is enrolled at the UI for the spring semester, when she will begin training with the Illini, and retains three seasons of eligibility.
“I think it’s a huge addition,” Illini coach Kevin Hambly said Monday. “She’s obviously very talented. I like her competitiveness and her attitude. I think she’s going to bring a lot to our program.”
The Laguna Beach, Calif., native started for the Sun Devils as a true freshman in 2012 and set a single-season school record for assists with 1,482. Palmer, who was named to the Pac-12 All-Freshman Team, also recorded a team-best 10 double-doubles (assists and digs) for a 20-14 Sun Devils squad.
In the 2013 preseason, however, Palmer lost the starting job to Bianca Arellano — a first-year transfer from Tennessee — and left the team.
Palmer indicated that the UI’s strong academic reputation figured into her selection of the Big Ten school. The accounting major made the dean’s list in her first two semesters at Arizona State.
“I love how Illinois is well-rounded,” she said in a statement from the UI. “The campus is beautiful, with so much history, and Illinois offers many great opportunities academically.”
Palmer has an extensive background with USA Volleyball. Last June, she played for the U.S. Junior National Team that competed in the FIVB Women’s Under-20 World Championship at Brno, Czech Republic.
She also was a member of the U.S. Youth National Team from 2010-11 and played for the U.S. Youth Olympic Team in 2010. Palmer helped the Americans win a gold medal at the 2010 NORCECA Girls Youth Continental Championship in Guatemala City, Guatemala.
A four-year starter at Laguna Beach High School, Palmer was a two-time California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section first-team all-stater in Division I-A.
Despite her credentials, Palmer agreed to join the Illini as a walk-on and play the remainder of her college career without scholarship aid, according to Hambly.
Palmer arrives at the UI with a previous familial connection to Big Ten volleyball. Her older sister, Alexandra, played her final two seasons at Minnesota (2012-13) after transferring from Santa Clara.
Hambly said Palmer will train not only as a setter but also at libero, where the Illini must replace four-year starter and school career digs record-holder Jennifer Beltran. At setter, Palmer provides competition for returning starter Alexis Viliunas and offers Hambly the option of a two-setter attack.
“She’s eager and capable of competing at a couple positions for us,” the Illini coach said. “I think she can do both.”
Palmer is one of two spring-semester additions to Hambly’s team. Libero/defensive specialist Brandi Donnelly also is enrolled after graduating from Williamsville High School in December.
With their arrivals — and the loss of only one senior — Hambly and his staff will be working with a roster of 16 players during the spring training period.
“That’s a big deal because it means we can have split squads (for scrimmages),” he said. “I think it will give more of our kids an opportunity to play.”