That Allyson Duncan has hit, tipped and blocked her way onto college coaches’ radars is no surprise.
Catholic Central High School’s menacing 6-foot outside hitter was a volleyball gym rat even before she was born.
“I got pregnant with Allyson while I was red-shirting my freshman season (at Division II Wheeling Jesuit University),” recalled Duncan’s mom, 1996 Irish grad and former assistant coach Jill Griffin-Mitch.
“Once I came back to Springfield I was coaching with Allyson right there in the gym with me. She’s been around the sport her whole life. It’s definitely in her blood.”
A Dayton Juniors standout, Duncan is being courted by a host of elite D-I schools, including Iowa, Notre Dame, Miami (Fla.), Morehead, Marshall, Kent State and Dayton.
“(The mail) started when I was a freshman,” Duncan said. “I got a letter and a brochure from Muskingum. It was surprising. I wasn’t expecting it to start that soon. Then I got some stuff from Notre Dame and things got pretty cool.”
So sought-after is Duncan that Wittenberg coach Paco Labrador, who’s transformed the Tigers into a D-III national power, treats her as an intangible, long-shot recruit.
“He approached Ally once when she was in eighth grade and said, ‘You know we like to keep local talent in town,’ ” Griffin-Mitch added, laughing.
A year ago, Duncan was named Elite honorable mention as one of the country’s top sophomores by PrepVolleyball.com. Her Junior Olympic stats are key reasons why: 253 kills, 188 digs, 58 blocks, 42 aces and a .300-plus kill percentage this season.
“My only break from volleyball is when I’m sleeping,” said Duncan, a District 9 first-teamer and honorable-mention, All-Ohio.
The lanky phenom boasts a 24-inch vertical leap, a 93-inch standing reach and a mean back row attack.
“I’ve known her since she was a little pup,” 28-year veteran JO coach Howard Garcia said. “I’ve watched her develop into a very solid overall player. She can play in the Big Ten or a higher-level conference.
“You can never really predict how a player’s mental state will progress and develop, but physically, she can play with the best of them.”
Teaming with 2013 Central graduate Brittanee Dewine, Duncan sparked the Irish to an outright Ohio Heritage Conference championship and 22-2 mark last season and a co-title with West Liberty-Salem in 2011, Central’s first in eight years.
“Ally’s been in my gym since she was 4. She’s definitely a gym rat and she’s definitely always loved volleyball,” said Central coach and 1993 grad Stacey (Derr) Webster. “She’s like one of my own kids.
“It just all comes so natural to her. She’s actually very unaware of how good she really is. She’s so good at this game that it’s become second-nature to her.”
Central’s 22 victories fell just a few shy of the school record of 25-2, set in 1995 when, ironically, standout Griffin-Mitch and coach Randy McFarland took the Irish to the regional finals.
“We’re basically a junior-dominated team,” Duncan said. “We think about the future - when November comes and the tournament games start coming. We know we have to focus on each game and play our best to get out of (a tough, D-IV) sectional.”
Named honorable mention All-Ohio by the Ohio High School Volleyball Coaches Association, Duncan is as modest and unassuming as she is dominant.
“Ally’s always had a leader on the court, but this is her year to step up and be the leader herself, now,” Webster said. “She has to flip that switch and I think it’s in her - it’s in there.
“Physically, she has what it takes to be a D-I player,” Webster added. “The mental part of it — that’s where she needs to turn it up a notch. She needs to flip the ‘Jill switch.’ There were times when (her mom) Jill was playing and she’d just turn it on, get mean and get after it on the court.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Karrah Batten, 5-9, middle hitter, sr., Kenton Ridge
Chloe Brandewie, 6-1, middle hitter, sr., Catholic Central
Taylor Brown, 5-10, outside hitter, jr., Kenton Ridge
Hannah Budding, 5-8, setter, sr., Tippecanoe
Liz Campbell, 6-0, setter/hitter, jr., Shawnee
Sam Cash*, 6-0, setter/outside hitter, sr., Miami East
Allyson Duncan, 6-0, outside hitter, jr., Catholic Central
Kameren Haley, 5-8, outside hitter, sr., Bellefontaine
Erin Jans, 5-11, middle/outside hitter, sr., Tippecanoe
Courtney Johnson, 5-9, middle hitter, sr., Springfield
Sierra Kirk, 5-7, setter, sr., Kenton Ridge
Allison Morrett*, 5-6, libero, sr, Miami East
Halee Printz, 5-11, hitter, so., Tippecanoe
Lexie Perry, 5-5, defensive specialist/hitter, so., Southeastern
Jamie Peterson, 5-9, outside hitter, so., West Liberty-Salem
Madison Semler, 5-10, outside hitter, sr., Tecumseh
Madison Taber, 5-8, libero, sr., Springfield
* Cash and Morrett helped Miami East to consecutive D-III state titles in 2011 and 2012; both have committed to D-I Tennessee Tech.
TOP AREA MATCHES
Aug. 26, 6:30 p.m.: Catholic Central at West Liberty-Salem
Aug. 27, 6:30 p.m.: Shawnee at Kenton Ridge
Aug. 29, 6:30 p.m.: Tippecanoe at Shawnee
Aug. 31, 9 a.m.: Catholic Central at Shawnee (tri-match w/ Springfield)
Sept. 5, 6:30 p.m.: Kenton Ridge at Tippecanoe
Sept. 12, 6:30 p.m.: Southeastern at Catholic Central
Sept. 24, 6:30 p.m.: Kenton Ridge at Shawnee
Sept. 26, 6:30 p.m.: Shawnee at Tippecanoe
Oct. 3, 6:30 p.m.: Tippecanoe at Kenton Ridge
Oct. 7, 6:30 p.m.: Catholic Central at Southeastern