UNION TWP. | Allie Stevenson thought she was in the wrong place when she arrived at the Wheeler gym for the first day of fall volleyball practice.
The junior libero looked around and only recognized a couple of upperclassmen on the court. Entering her third year on varsity, Stevenson is the oldest member of a starting lineup that features three sophomores and two freshmen.
“I seriously thought that I walked in on a (junior varsity) practice,” Stevenson said. “This year is so different. We don’t view it as a rebuilding year. We know we can play with anyone.”
Just because the Bearcats said goodbye to Shannon Doyle and Haley Plothow after last season doesn’t mean that all is lost. Stevenson has fit right in as the starting libero and even matched Plothow’s program-record (shared with Brienne Keeny) with 29 digs in a match last week. Wheeler started 10-4 this season and each win widens the smile on Stevenson’s face.
“We knew that people said we were too young and we were going to be down this year,” Stevenson said. “Our view is that we’re Wheeler and you’re not just walking our gym and getting a win.”
Stevenson takes great pride in the Wheeler gym as she spent nearly the entire summer at the school. The multisport star would arrive in the morning for three hours of basketball before running home for a quick lunch before volleyball practice in the afternoon. Evenings would mean games of some sort before starting all over again the next day.
“Allie was in here non-stop and she brings that same kind of energy to the team,” Wheeler coach Alisha Polite said. “She is a leader by example and the younger players look up to her.”
One of the younger players is freshman Laurel Stevenson, Allie’s younger sister. When fall practice began, the older sibling made sure that her younger sister was learning the ropes as quick as possible.
“I hated the first couple of weeks because she was always on me, but now I realize that she was just getting me ready,” Laurel said. “I felt like I had a lot of pressure with her and that was annoying, but everything she has done has been to make me better.”
Stevenson is happy to have her “little wingman” on varsity even if she recognizes that she is much harder on her sister than she is anyone else. It’s the same kind of treatment Stevenson got when she made varsity as a freshman two years ago.
“I’m just trying to remember all that the seniors taught me when I was starting and I’m passing that on to my teammates now,” Stevenson said.