A Home Away From Home


By Alyssa Casalino for WVUsports.com
October 17, 2012 04:30 PM
When traveling over 3,000 miles from Montana to make your way to college, a student-athlete might not expect to see a teammate from the same state.

WVU volleyball outside hitters Arielle Allen and Hannah Sackett never imagined having another teammate from their home state when they decided to travel across the country to play for the Mountaineers.

“When I first met our head coach, (Jill Kramer), she had mentioned there was another girl coming from Montana and I thought, ‘no way,’” Sackett said. “I couldn’t believe that and I was really excited. Even though I had never heard of her hometown, it still made me a lot more comfortable.

“When I go over to Arielle’s house in Morgantown, there are little reminders of home, like a magnet on the refrigerator with our area code back in Montana.”

Allen was quite surprised to learn about another Montana athlete on the roster as well. As a transfer from Western Wyoming Community College, Allen felt just as new as a freshman when she came to Morgantown. Even before she had seen Sackett’s name, Allen felt right at home once she looked at the roster.

“All of the girls on this team are from pretty faraway places,” Allen explains. “Being around other people that are motivated enough to leave home and move outside their comfort zone is a great feeling. It’s fun to be around girls that have the same drive.”

Allen and Sackett come from different parts of Montana and are only about a six hour drive away from each other. Allen hails from Lewistown, which is in the center of the state, while Sackett grew up in Somers, just west of the Rocky Mountains.

Both girls began their volleyball careers at roughly 11 years old and found success at all levels of competition.

Sackett played in a school-record 428 sets and set 16 other school records through her four years at Flathead High School. She was a Western AA All-Conference first-team selection for three years and a Montana Class AA all-state first team selection her junior and senior years.

Allen led Fergus High School to the state championship title her junior and senior years and was also named the Class A Tournament MVP in 2007. Allen went on to Western Wyoming, where in two years, she was named AVCA and NJCAA All-America second team and helped the Mustangs to a second- and third-place finish in the NJCAA National Championships in 2011 and 2010, respectively.

When the two Montana natives decided to make their way to Morgantown, it was at an exciting time, as WVU began its inaugural Big 12 season this fall.

The volleyball team was given the honor of playing in the very first Big 12 match ever to be held on the WVU campus. The Mountaineers hosted then-No.2 Texas on Aug. 29 in front of a program-high crowd of 3,112 fans.

“Coming in and playing Texas was a great experience,” Sackett said. “We played well against them and we had a record-breaking crowd. It was a really exciting night.”

“We played in the first Big 12 event ever for this school, which was really cool for us,” Allen said.

Joining a new conference was an exciting factor in each’s decision to come to West Virginia. After looking at other schools in different parts of the country and even contemplating staying close to home, both easily picked WVU and the new experience it would bring.

“I was looking at a lot of schools much closer to home, but I fell in love with the coaching staff and this team,” Sackett said. “The family atmosphere was amazing and I really wanted the opportunity to play in such a great conference.”

Allen can agree that visiting the school really convinced her to move out here, but the biggest factor was the coaching staff.

“I absolutely love the coaching staff,” Allen explained. “They have a genuine interest in our success, not only as athletes, but as students and people in general. I think sometimes that can get lost at the Division I level.”

Allen said that coach Kramer is very goal-oriented and constantly helps everyone to achieve personal and team goals. Sackett particularly likes how Kramer has helped to prepare such a young team for intense conference play.

“She knows when to be strict, but she also knows when to step back and let us figure it out on our own,” Sackett said about Kramer’s coaching technique. “We’re such a young team, and it could be frustrating for her and the older girls with so many freshmen, but Jill has done such an amazing job in making sure that we’re 100% ready. It’s been a great transition for all seven freshmen.”

WVU is set to play Baylor on October 20 in Waco, Texas.



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