Alison Runk has seen the Temple volleyball team come full circle.
As a three-year starter, Runk has played a major role on two teams that finished second in the Atlantic Ten tournament, and one that took home the crown in her sophomore year.
For the past three years she has been Temple’s leading setter, and twice been named A-10 Setter of the Year. She also holds the Temple single-season record for assists with 1,505 in 2002, and has been named first-team all-conference twice.
But unlike her first three years, Runk is now one of the leaders of a very young team.
“My first few years here, I was focused more on my own abilities and learning to make myself better to help the team,” Runk said. “But this year I’m more confident in myself and my abilities and am more focused on helping the rest of the team and helping them learn.”
Coach Bob Bertucci shared a similar sentiment.
“When Alison was younger, she had the older players telling her what to do, and where to set the ball,” Bertucci said. “But now that she’s the older player, she’s giving more directions, and other players are looking to her for leadership and to make the key plays.”
As a freshman, Runk’s main role on the team was to play in the back row and jump serve. And on occasion she would get some playing time at setter, later in games to get the experience.
It was her sophomore year when she took over the setting duties from senior Solana Lee and helped the Owls take back the A-10 title for the first time since 1999.
“When I was a backup, the girl in front of me [Lee] showed me how to be really positive and encouraging toward the others she was playing in front of,” Runk said. “I try to do the same things now for the younger girls on the team.”
Temple (9-14, 6-1) sits a half game behind first-place Dayton in the conference standings. With five of their last seven matches on the road, Bertucci said that Runk has been one of the keys to their success all year and especially down the stretch.
“Now that she’s a senior, our success relies a bit more on Alison now than in past years,” he said. “All the new and young players are looking toward her for leadership.”
Runk is an accounting major, and hopes after the season to find an accounting internship for the summer. She plans on graduating in the fall of 2005, but doesn’t want to leave Philadelphia.
“I’d really like to find an internship and stay in the city,” she said. “I’ve also already talked to coach about coming back next year and helping out with the team.”
Bertucci is looking forward to having Runk back, even if it’s on the bench.
“She’ll really add to our program as a student assistant, and hopefully she’ll be able to help train the next generation of setters, impress on the team the commitment it takes to win, and be a good role model for them,” Bertucci said.
Runk has no plans to continue playing volleyball after this year, but Bertucci thinks she might have the talent needed at higher levels.
“We’ve been fortunate to have an athlete of her caliber playing for us,” he said. “We’ve really worked on trying to improve her game technically, and I think she has the talent to play at the next level.”
Tomorrow against Duquesne will be Runk’s last game at McGonigle Hall. After devoting four years of her life toward the team, it could prove to be a special afternoon for her and the other seniors.
“I’m going to have to try and hold back some tears,” she said. “It’s going to be an emotional afternoon because I’ve invested four years of blood, sweat, and tears into this. But at the same time, it’s also going to be very exciting.”
Bill Gennaro can be reached at email@example.com.