Junior walk-on strengthens volleyball veterans

Cassidy O’Hair, junior business administration major, practices volleyball with her team for two hours a day. O’Hair spikes the ball over the net during a drill in the Fred Delay Gymnasium. | Photo by Deanna Santangelo

By Allison Little

The last time Cassidy O’Hair, junior international business major, was on a volleyball team, she was not only a senior in high school, but was also the team captain.

Now, as a college junior, she has to adjust to being on a collegiate team for the first time at Union University as a walk-on member of the Lady Bulldogs volleyball team.

Heather Lieberman, senior business administration major and a member of the volleyball team, noticed O’Hair in the spring when she was refereeing an intramural game. O’Hair, who was playing in the game, made quite an impression.

“I was shocked when I saw the amount of talent she had and actually asked her if she had ever considered joining the team,” Lieberman said. “She told me she never really thought about it, and I told her our team was very open to walk-on players.”

O’Hair had attended some of the games before but had never entertained the thought of actually joining the team.

Lieberman said she spoke to the other players about O’Hair joining the team and they were all in agreement.

“We were impressed with her natural athletic ability, skills and her great personality, and felt that she would definitely be an asset to the team.”

After speaking with Coach Kelly Elliott, the team extended O’Hair an invitation to join. She said if it were not for the other women on the team encouraging her and being supportive of her being on the team, she would not have made the decision to join the squad.

O’Hair said she met with Elliott one-on-one and practiced with the team once or twice. She knew in order to be a contributing member she would have to work hard over the summer in order to sharpen her skills and get back into playing shape for the start of the season.

What is the hardest thing about being an upperclassman academically but a freshman athletically?

“Time management, for sure,” O’Hair said. “But the girls are very supportive and have treated me as an equal member of the team.”

Her teammates have been instrumental in helping her learn to integrate the demands of volleyball as well as the demands of a busy academic schedule. While O’Hair has had to make some adjustments, “it was probably easier for Cassidy as a junior, than a freshman, to walk-on, because she has such a great support group from her sorority and her friends on campus,” Lieberman said. “She came with a positive attitude that we all really appreciated. She also brought a fresh perspective because she loves volleyball and was willing to take our advice and work hard to make herself better.”

O’Hair said playing on the team has been quite a humbling experience.

“Coming in with a different role — from being a team captain and leader to feeling like a freshman again — is humbling,” she said. “I am finding other ways to contribute to the team without being an essential player, but I love the sport, the team and the coaches. I am lucky. I could not have asked for a more perfect situation.”

O’Hair, an outside hitter, has seen action in seven of the Lady Bulldogs’ 17 games.

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The Cardinal & Cream is a student publication of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. Our staff ranges from freshmen to seniors and includes a variety of majors — including journalism, public relations, advertising, marketing, digital media studies, graphic design and art majors.