Volleyball has been a constant influence in the life of Seton Hall’s Allie Matters. Both her aunt and uncle played at the collegiate level for West Virginia and Penn State respectively and her mother played in high school.
Playing the game herself however didn’t hold quite the same appeal as it did for the rest of her family.
“I was ten and I remember my mom dragged me to try-outs,” Matters said. “I didn’t want to go. I didn’t want anything to do with volleyball. I wanted to dance and do gymnastics like all my friends.”
After actually getting out on the court though, she quickly changed her mind.
“I was in there for try-outs and she couldn’t get me out,” Matters said. “I loved it from the first time I played it.”
She never looked back from that point, making the club team for which she initially tried out.
As an eighth grader she was moved up to varsity, and when the time came she began the recruiting process with the help of her uncle.
After looking at schools such as Tennessee and Bucknell, she decided on Seton Hall citing the proximity to her home in the Buffalo area as well as the opportunity to play immediately as her main reasons.
“I thought that I was going to come here and play right away,” Matters said. “I’d never sat the bench and I didn’t want to start in college. I wanted to go somewhere and make an immediate impact.”
The numbers speak for themselves as the senior business/marketing major recently broke the school’s all-time dig record.
That record sits alongside the single-season record she broke as a junior, and her current 55 game double-digit digs streak, which is good enough for best in the nation as of press time.
“I think that Allie is a true winner,” former teammate (and past holder of the school’s dig record when she graduated in 2007) Jessica Pompei said. “I think she brings a lot to the team. She’s a great athlete and a great kid and Seton Hall is lucky to have her.”
Pompei played one season with Matters and held both digs records before they were broken.
“I think that records are meant to be broken and who better to break it than Allie,” Pompei said. “It means that she’s doing great things for the team and the volleyball program.”
However for Matters, the individual honors have come secondary to the success of the team.
“I just feel if you work hard all these things will come naturally,” Matters said. “That’s my job. The numbers will come.”
Upon reaching Seton Hall, Pompei was the incumbent libero (or primary defensive player) on the court, the position in which Matters really excelled.
At the time though, then first-year head coach Kris Zeiter knew the type of player Matters was on the court.
“She was hard-nosed in practice,” Zeiter said. “I knew immediately as soon as I saw her play I had to find a way to get her on the court.”
The way to get her on the court was a move to outside-hitter, a position generally reserved for taller players than the 5 feet 8 inch Matters.
“One of the problems that we had was having toughness and attitude as an outside hitter,” Zeiter said. “Even though she’s small for that position, she definitely brought that to the court.”
“I just wanted to be versatile, the kind of player that could be put in any type of situation,” Matters said. “That’s where he (Zeiter) needed me and that’s where I played until he needed me somewhere else.”
It wasn’t until after her sophomore season that Matters shifted from the outside hitter position to libero, allowing her to truly focus on displaying her defensive prowess.
“She’ll definitely be the best defensive player this school’s ever had,” Zeiter said. “She always wants to win, she always wants to play hard.”
After the position shift, the digs really started to pile-up for Matters.
She broke the single-season record a year ago and the all-time record earlier this season.
“I knew it was going to happen,” senior mid back Melissa Bellomy said. “Allie is always going to get digs it was just a matter of time. We rely on someone who’s going to get almost everything up, and she’s that player. What she does is necessary for the team to succeed.”
Records in hand, Matters still has yet to play in the Big East Tournament, her biggest goal since coming to Seton Hall to play.
It is a goal that is consistent with her team-first mentality, and she has been working to get the program toward the post season over her four years in South Orange.
“If we ever get to where I think we can be in the conference she’s had as big a hand in it as anyone,” Zeiter said. “She wants to win so bad that I think it rubs off on the other kids.”
“I want to make it to the Big East Tournament,” Matters said. “The records matter and are important but if you don’t lead your team to the Big East you’re just someone in the record books. If I can lead the team to the Big East it will be a bigger accomplishment than any record I can set.”
While Matters has just the rest of the season to reach the Big East Tournament, postseason play or not, should a member of the current team make it to post season play, they should look to her attitude as one of a winner.
Zachary Cziryak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.