Dos Palos High School senior Alli O’Banion signed on Wednesday her national letter of intent to play volleyball for Southern Arkansas University of the NCAA’s Division 2 on a partial scholarship.
She’s a Bronco, who is now about to become a Mulerider.
O’Banion inked the document in the school’s career center surrounded by staff, family and friends. It was cause for celebration on campus, since it was DPHS’s first scholarship signing ceremony since running back Kenny James signed with Washington University’s football team in 2002, according to principal Heather Ruiz and former football coach Mike Sparks, who still works as a counselor.
“It’s a small school, and where I come from is small,” O’Banion said about the 3,400-student institution in Magnolia, Ark., a town twice the size of Dos Palos. “It’s an ag school, and my major will be ag, so that’s a big part of it.”
O’Banion, a feared outside hitter at 5 feet, 11 inches, helped Dos Palos to the first playoff wins in the volleyball program’s history last fall, racking up 401 kills on a 53 percent success rate, 42 blocks, 57 aces, 230 digs and 157 assists.
“I’m thrilled. This girl has the most work ethic,” Dos Palos coach Mary Schofield said. “She’s going to work her butt off, and I know she can play at the next level because she’s such a hard worker and she wanted it so bad. So with desire and hard work, and add a little height, you can do anything you want.”
The third-seeded Broncos made it to the Central Section Division 4 semifinals in the fall, going 30-3 and falling to second-seeded Woodlake in four games in the semifinals. The first-round victory over No. 14 Orosi was the school’s first-ever volleyball playoff win, and DP followed that with a quarterfinal victory over No. 6 McFarland.
“I think it gives us street cred,” Schofield said about O’Banion signing. “It legitimizes our program.”
O’Banion said she had offers from schools in Texas and California, but a number of factors led to her decision. The Muleriders went 17-15 in the fall, going 7-7 in the Great American Conference and falling 3-0 to eventual champion Arkansas Tech in the first round of the GAC tournament.
“Yeah, it’ll be far, but I think I’ll be able to have another family there,” O’Banion said. “My grandparents live an hour away from the university.”
As for Dos Palos, which loses seven other seniors, Schofield isn’t too worried. She still has Madison Pierce (345 kills last year), the other half of a formidable offensive duo that the student cheering section referred to as Maddy P and Alli O.
“I have a lot of club players returning,” Schofield said. “We’ll miss Alli, she’ll leave a hole, but I think we’ll be able to compensate for that loss.”