by Russell Cooks
Even in a program that has produced plenty of stars, Sandy Creek volleyball alum Allie Davenport still shines as bright as she gets ready for her senior season with the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Mocs.
During her four years as a Patriot, Davenport’s teams never finished worse than third in the state. She led her squad to consecutive state titles in her last two, along with consecutive All-State honors and AAAA Georgia Player of the Year as a senior. She has since used her success at Sandy Creek as a springboard to overwhelming success at Chattanooga.
She learned to love the sport early.
“I was 10 years old and I loved it,” remembered Allie of her first time playing. “I spent two years watching my sister play before I was old enough to play, so I was just really excited because I got to be like my big sister and play the sport she played!”
She’s proud to follow in the footsteps of her sister, Katie, who also played volleyball in college.
“I credit a lot of my career to my sister. She introduced me to the game and taught me how to play and supported me the whole way. I would never be the player I am without my sister, I never would’ve started playing at all if it weren’t for her.”
It wasn’t just one member of the Davenport family who got her where she is either.
“I don’t even have enough words to describe what my parents have meant to me through all this. They have been my biggest fans and supporters my entire career. Sometimes I really don’t know how they did it all,” beamed Allie, who said that at least one of her parents has been at every game she played in for Sandy Creek and every home game in college.
“A volleyball game wouldn’t be the same without looking into the stands and seeing their faces and my mom grunting every time I make a mistake,” she joked.
She thinks they might even take it harder than her whenever she stops playing.
“In college especially, you hear a lot about athletes having an identity crisis once their athletic career is over, and, though I don’t want to be done playing by any means, I think my parents will be having the identity crisis for me. They have learned the game and love it as much as I do.”
There’s a lot that Allie loves about her spot.
“My favorite thing about playing is getting a huge kill when my team needs it, a game changing kill I guess you could say,” said Allie. “But through the years, the thing I will most remember is the people I spent the past 11 years with. I have had some amazing teammates that I know will be lifelong friends. I guess there’s something about 30 hours of volleyball in three days and running until you puke that makes you close with the people you’re doing it with.”
Her proudest memory comes from her time at Sandy Creek.
“I think that winning state my senior year will forever be my favorite volleyball memory,” she remembered. “I have one more year in college though, so hopefully something will top that this year, but that season was so much fun and so bittersweet for me. It was the last time I’d play with my best friends and the last time I’d play in a Sandy Creek jersey, so it was definitely the perfect way to go out. I actually just watched that match the other day, I uploaded it on my YouTube channel when I was in high school.”
She’s quick to credit her coach at Sandy Creek, Paul Collins, for helping her on the road to success.
“Pauly C., as we called him my senior year, is definitely one of my favorite coaches I’ve ever had. We got along very well in that we both wanted to beat anyone that was across the net,” said Allie of Coach Collins, who also coached her sister. “It was special for my family and I to go through that whole journey with him, not to mention the fact that my sister and I were both a part of the three state championships he won. He watched me grow as a player and helped shape and mold me into the player I am.”
She also credits her club team for helping ease the transition to college ball.
“I played my final club years at A5 and, after being in college, I see that they really prepared me more than anyone ever could have. They run their club teams just like a college team does.”
Learning to balance school and sports is something all college athletes have to adjust to.
“The only real difference I experienced was having to balance more things in college than I did in high school. In college, my mom isn’t there to pack my lunch or do my laundry, although I know she wishes she was,” joked Allie. “There’s a lot that goes into college athletics that people don’t know about. We have to schedule our class times around practice and fit in weights, rehab, treatment, film, walkthroughs, travel days, and study hall, all while going to class and making sure we’re doing what we need to do outside of all that to stay eligible and just be healthy. Having time to sleep and eat has been a bigger struggle than I ever imagined it would be.
“It really is a full-time job, but my experience at UTC has been incredible so far. My coach (Travis Filar) is amazing, and my teammates have made it so enjoyable through the ups and downs. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
Allie quickly made her mark at the collegiate level. As a true freshman, she appeared in 28 matches and led her team in kills per set, and led the Southern Conference with 36 service aces. She built on that as a sophomore, leading the team in service aces and finishing second with 251 kills, while starting 27 of 28 matches. She kicked it up a notch last year, earning all-conference first team honors while leading her team in points per set at 3.99. She’s racked up plenty of honors, too many for the three-year starter to pick just one.
“I have 893 career kills, with a season high of 404 in 2015, I was player of the week twice, named all conference first team, and on the all tournament team in the SoCon on top of being regular season champions,” she said of her individual accolades. “I think our biggest team accomplishment is being regular season champions for the first time since the 1990s. Being a part of something like that is really special and something I think that every athlete hopes of doing in their career. Our final record was 26-6, which is incredible at the division one level. We finished 77 out of all NCAA D1 schools. That was above many schools in the ‘power five’ conferences including Georgia tech, UGA, Virginia Tech, Mississippi State, and our biggest rival, Tennessee, just to name a few.”
She wants to finish her career as a Moc on a high note with an even bigger team run.
“My goal for the team this year is to take our regular season title a step further by winning the Southern Conference tournament and go to the NCAA tournament. I couldn’t ask for a better finish to my college career than my last game being played in the tournament,” Allie said. “We have a really tough preseason schedule with big name schools like Kansas, TCU, Northwestern, and Ole Miss to name a few. I think that will be great preparation for us going into our conference schedule. Taking some games off those big guys and walking away with some wins would be a great accomplishment for our program. I am so excited to take some names this season, I think we’re going to surprise a lot of people.”