Aliah Bowllan accepts new libero role with help from Belle Sand

first_imgIn each of the last three years, Belle Sand was a menace for opposing teams. Diving chest first onto the hardwood, Sand sacrificed her body and kept plays alive. As Syracuse’s starting libero, she led the Orange in digs for three-straight years, totaling 1,429 digs from 2014-17.Aside from stats, Sand mentored the underclassmen by working hard and staying persistent on the court, said junior Aliah Bowllan. Published on September 4, 2018 at 10:18 pm Contact Adam: adhillma@syr.edu | @_adamhillman After Sand’s graduation, SU head coach Leonid Yelin was left looking for a replacement.“We tried to find someone who would play her role in the team, because to replace Belle would be impossible,” Yelin said.But before Syracuse (2-0) played its first two games on Aug. 31 and Sept. 1 at the UConn Invitational, Yelin insisted it was junior libero Aliah Bowllan’s job. The upstate New York native recorded 90 digs last year, seventh on the team, but leads the Orange in digs so far this season with 22.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textBowllan started and led the team in digs in both of the invitational games. While Bowllan has played libero since fifth grade, she’s tried to emulate Sand every time she steps on the court.“After watching Belle for two years, I learned what she does and what her tendencies are, and it just made me improve as a player,” Bowllan said.Before Bowllan’s freshman season began, she suffered a serious wrist injury. Bowllan missed the first seven games of the season. While sitting out, she couldn’t use her injured wrist. Instead, Bowllan practiced footwork and conditioning drills — anything that didn’t involve a ball.Yet Bowllan’s relationship with Sand, the only other libero on the team, had a greater impact. Sand helped her with positioning on the court and technique while Bowllan was on the sideline.“There’s a big adjustment going from playing with high schoolers, and playing against girls, to playing against women … Everyone’s just bigger and stronger,” Bowllan said.Over the next two years, Sand mentored Bowllan, and the mutual respect grew. By watching someone who “always knew where to be,” Bowllan began to master the nuances and intricacies of the position.Under the tutelage of Sand, Bowllan improved. Sand was known as one of the hardest workers at SU, and sophomore Ella Saada noted that Bowllan is following suit.This past offseason, Bowllan, Saada and other teammates spent hours in the gym fine-tuning their serves. By repeating her technique over and over, Bowllan has pushed her serve to another level, Saada said.To this day, Bowllan and Sand talk regularly. Before the first match of the 2018 season, Sand had one last piece of advice for Bowllan.“Belle told me to just be ready for anything, especially playing libero,” Bowllan said. Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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