Allison is ahead of the curve

Allison is ahead of the curve

CHAMPAIGN — Mica Allison is among a number of area athletes who has signed to play a sport at the college level. She's part of an even smaller faction that will compete at the Division I level, suiting up for the Auburn volleyball team.

But what makes the St. Thomas More senior stand out from the rest is she has graduated early and is already living at the Alabama-based campus.

Allison finished her STM education last month and left Champaign for Auburn on Friday afternoon, getting a jumpstart on her time with coach Rick Nold's Tigers.

The possibility Allison could head south during the winter came about well before the setter/outside hitter helped the Sabers to Class 2A state gold in November.

"This past March, I got a call from my coach, and he told me they had a scholarship available," said Allison, the 2017 News-Gazette All-Area volleyball Player of the Year. "I had wanted to do that. There was no doubt in my mind."

After discussing the opportunity with her parents and STM counselor, Allison began the road to early graduation. She took two classes at nearby Parkland College to ensure she could acquire the appropriate number of credits to wrap up her high school diploma by December.

While Allison said she can't imagine having any regrets about her choice as the future plays out, she admitted it wasn't the easiest call to make.

"It was kind of sad because I only spent about four hours (a day) at STM," she said. "And I didn't get to eat lunch there because of the classes at Parkland. So that was a little bit sad, knowing I wasn't with (my classmates) a whole lot."

Discussion with those at Auburn, as well as with others in the volleyball community, helped bring her comfort with the decision. And when the Tigers learned at least one member of the unit's six-woman recruiting class would be arriving early, the response was entirely positive.

"I got a lot of texts. They were very excited," Allison said. "They were very welcoming, asking if I need anything and have any questions."

Auburn finished the 2017 season with a 15-12 mark and did not qualify for the NCAA tournament.

Should the Tigers deploy Allison as a setter, she would likely compete with current freshman Morgan Kull, out of St. Charles East, for the spot being vacated by present senior Alexa Filley.

Allison finished fourth in STM history in assists while rotating between setter and outside hitter, while also leading the Sabers in career blocks and aces in addition to placing second in kills.

Prior to departing Illinois late last week, Allison said she was spending as much time as possible with STM senior Hayes Murray, a setter for the Sabers and Allison's best friend.

But Allison also was getting mentally prepared for life as a D-I athlete — both her coursework in the marketing field and her training on the volleyball court.

"I'm excited for it," she said. "It'll be interesting to see how many things are similar to what I'm doing now, and then just have a more consistent schedule for workouts. I'm really excited for that, actually."