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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Napier returns in style

    Assistant volleyball coach Allison Napier works with middle blockers Stephanie Snow (55) and Jacy Norton (12) during a break in practice in McKale Center on Tuesday. After playing professionally and working in the fashion industry in New York, former Wildcat Napier has returned to  a pursiut more meaningful.
    Assistant volleyball coach Allison Napier works with middle blockers Stephanie Snow (55) and Jacy Norton (12) during a break in practice in McKale Center on Tuesday. After playing professionally and working in the fashion industry in New York, former Wildcat Napier has returned to a pursiut more ‘meaningful.’

    Some athletes go pro after their time at the UA. Some take up jobs in a big city. And still some return to their alma mater to fill a coaching position.

    At 28, Allison Napier has done all three.

    After graduating in 2002, Napier – a standout UA volleyball player from 1997-2000 – followed her former teammate, middle blocker turned setter Lauren Benward, to New York to pursue a career in the fashion industry. Benward became an accessories editor for Elle magazine, while Napier fell into place as the publisher’s assistant.

    “”I went there just on a whim,”” Napier said. “”(Lauren) wanted to go out there and I thought, ‘Why not?’ I’m always up for change.””

    After about three years, Napier moved on to become the public relations coordinator for TSE Cashmere in New York, and Benward went to Niche Media to become the associate fashion and accessories editor. Benward returned to Elle in July, and Napier returned to Tucson in February as an assistant coach for the Wildcat volleyball team.

    But Napier didn’t jump directly from UA volleyball to the fashion world. There was a pro stint in between.

    Before she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English literature, she played professionally in Puerto Rico from December 2000 to April 2001 as the only American in the league.

    “”I was successful there because of my U of A experience,”” she said. “”Everything I learned as a Wildcat helped me as a player in Puerto Rico.””

    Once a USC basketball prospect in Santa Ana, Calif., Napier decided that volleyball was a better fit for her. Her stats showed that it wasn’t a bad decision.

    As an outside hitter, Napier posted 1,008 kills in 110 matches over four seasons. She helped Arizona to a Sweet 16 appearance in 1999 and the school’s first Elite Eight finish the following year as a first-team All-Pac-10 honoree.

    “”Whenever you can bring a former player back into the program, there are just so many benefits,”” said UA head coach Dave Rubio, who hired Napier after former Wildcat Dana Burkholder resigned after one year as an assistant coach.

    “”It’s good for the players of the program,”” he added. “”She can relate to all of the trials and tribulations that the current players are going through.

    I welcomed the change back to something that was more
    meaningful
    to me. -Allison Napier,
    UA volleyball
    assistant coach

    It makes her more approachable for the current players to talk about problems and issues. And from a recruiting standpoint, it’s important because she can speak from a personal experience.””

    Napier and second-year assistant coach Chris Gonzalez not only help the team on the sidelines and with recruiting, but they also participate in practice drills.

    “”She hasn’t done too much physical work, but she is somebody who has played in this conference and has gone on to play professionally,”” said Gonzalez, who is in his 13th year in coaching. “”When she does take part in physical drills, you can tell that she’s pretty darn experienced.””

    Senior middle blocker Dominique Lamb said that the addition of the coaches in drills adds competition and excitement to practice.

    “”They’re still great players, and when they jump in, you just want to kick their butts,”” she said with a laugh.

    Though Napier is very professional on the court, Lamb said that the assistant coach relates well to the players off it.

    “”Off the court, she’s always singing like it’s karaoke,”” Lamb said. “”She teaches us about fashion, too. She dresses very nice. I want to raid her closet one day.””

    Whether it’s singing R&B songs, working on players’ skills while polishing up her own, or teaching them what’s hot and what’s not in fashion, Napier has settled in as a Wildcat again.

    “”I missed the (Tucson) community a lot,”” Napier said. “”I also miss New York. … It was different environment. I was working in a totally different industry. But I welcomed the change back to something that was more meaningful to me.””

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