Freshman travels 4,500 miles to play college volleyball
Generally, Quinnipiac students are never far from home. Almost 85 percent of the student body is from either New York, New Jersey, Connecticut or Massachusetts. For them, home is never more than a two-hour drive away.
Consider freshman Allison Leigh of the women’s volleyball team one of the exceptions. For Leigh, home is 4,500 miles away in the great white north of Alaska.
Leigh comes from Palmer, Alaska, a small town with a population of less than 6,000 people. Her home is 45 minutes outside of Anchorage, the state’s largest city. Other than that, Leigh says she is fairly isolated.
“It takes three hours to fly to Seattle from where I am,” Leigh said. “So that’s the closest place in the lower 48.”
Most freshmen go through a tough transition when they leave home to live at college, but Leigh carried the additional stress of moving across the world. She has adapted very quickly, however, having almost no trouble at all.
In fact, she has loved her experience, and one reason for that has been the school’s central location that Quinnipiac loves to promote.
“I like being close to New York City, I think that’s really awesome,” Leigh said. “Everything here is really close which is something totally new. The transition for me has been pretty easy. The only difference is it’s a little warmer here, but everything else is the same pretty much.”
While Leigh has enjoyed the benefits of Quinnipiac, there have been some drawbacks, as well. She only returns home at the end of the semesters, and it can be difficult to talk to her family.
“The biggest difference is just the timezone,” Leigh said. “It’s four hours ahead here, so trying to talk to my family is a little more complicated.”
The support of her teammates has made the biggest difference in Leigh’s move to the lower 48 states. While she is far away from her family in Alaska, her teammates act as her family here at school.
“They’ve definitely helped me adjust and everything,” Leigh said. “They’re always friendly, really willing to help out, like bring me to the store. They’ll invite the younger girls over to make them feel comfortable here.”
The family atmosphere on the women’s volleyball team is something everyone works hard to create, according to senior captain Logan Riker. It is not just limited to players and coaches, but parents too.
“When they come on recruiting visits, I always say this team is like family that you’re coming in to,” Riker said. “The parents that are here on weekends are a really great part of this. The parents that come to our matches are like, ‘Alright I know your mom’s not here so I’m gonna give you a mom hug because I know you miss your family.’”
Leigh is one of the volleyball team’s brightest young stars. Her 148 kills lead the team this season. However, the match between Leigh and the Bobcats almost didn’t happen. As an Alaskan athlete, recruiters had difficulty meeting with Leigh because of the distance. Leigh also never heard of Quinnipiac before she met head coach Kristopher Czaplinski.
“He found me on a recruiting website,” Leigh said. “It’s so under-recruited there because it’s hard for the coaches to get there.”
It is easy to see why Czaplinski went the extra mile (or 4,500) for Leigh. Leigh was a star on Colony High School’s volleyball team, and at 6 feet 3 inches, the freshman is already the tallest player on the team. After Czaplinski invited Leigh to visit the campus, she knew it was the right school for her.
“Everything kind of worked out, team wise, coach wise,” Leigh said. “I had been to the east coast once and I really liked it. I came on a visit I really liked it. They have a good physical therapy program which is what I really want to do.”
Leigh is the first Alaskan player to lace up for the Bobcats volleyball team. With the success she has been having perhaps more could follow. Leigh says Czaplinski is happy to take advantage of the new recruiting opportunities.
“I think that our coach is more aware now with recruiting. He has more contacts now and its so under-recruited,” Leigh said. “So I really think he enjoys that, having more options for recruitment.”