Alley joins Union College Bulldogs

By DAVID GRAVELY
SWT Sports Editor

It’s hard to believe that at the start of her sixth grade year, Candace Alley did not want to play volleyball.

Fast forward a few years and not only has she been a rock solid part of the Lady Oriole and Lady Cougar volleyball programs, but she will now take her skills and talents to the next level as a member of the Union College Bulldogs in Barbourville, Ky.

“I had to send one of our eighth grade players out to the hallway to get her to come into the gym,” Pulaski Middle School volleyball coach Kim Nelson said Wednesday at the official signing ceremony. “I told her to buddy up with her and make her comfortable, to go through the drills with her and help her out. At the end of practice I asked her how she liked it. She said it was fun and she would be back. I’m glad it worked out.”

Alison Sutphin, who only recently stepped down as the Lady Cougar volleyball coach, was glad too.

Alley came into the high school program and made an impact as a setter and as a teammate. She was a team leader and a stats leader.

“I’ve known Candace for a long time and I sort of always felt like we would end up here,” Sutphin said. “Candace has very rare and unique qualities. I’m sure people will assume that I will talk about the fact that she has an awesome float serve or that she has great hands and is strong as an ox. While all of those things are true, I feel her most special gift is her ability to love her neighbor, to listen to others, to speak up when needed and to ultimately do the right things. She has been the backbone leader of our team for the past three years. It’s almost strange to think about Pulaski County volleyball without the Alley’s involved. We’re all very proud of her and excited for the opportunities she has earned.”

Newly named Lady Cougar head volleyball coach Ted Prol and Pulaski County High School AD Scott Vest also had nothing but good things to say about Alley.

“We wish her the best of luck and know she will make her school and her family proud,” Prol said. “Her work ethic and focus will serve her well in athletics and in the classroom.”

“Candace is a wonderful student and a fine athlete,” Vest commented. “She has been a fine representative of Pulaski County High School on and off the court and I have no doubt that she will continue that at the college level. We’re very proud of her and wish her nothing but the best of luck at Union College.”

So who is Candace Alley?

The daughter of Steve and Londa Alley of Pulaski, Candace has been as solid in the classroom as she has been on the courts.

She holds a 4.0 grade point average, something that she has quickly discovered the importance of as she’s gone through the college selection process.

“College is expensive, but having good grades has been a big help,” Alley said. “The first thing that colleges look at is your grades. Most of the time when a college offers a scholarship it’s going to be an academic one, but you have to earn it first. Good grades have really opened up a lot of opportunities for me.”

Alley plans to major in Nursing, something that caused her to have serious questions when picking her school.

“I had almost decided to give up volleyball because I couldn’t find a school that offered the right combination of education that I wanted and volleyball,” she said. “I had originally planned to go to another school and not play, but then this opportunity presented itself. We went down and visited campus and I knew right away it was a good fit. Coach Jeremy Wise took the time to show us around and spent the whole day with us. The facilities were great and the campus felt like home. The Bulldogs have a great program and I’m excited to become a part of it.”

I asked Candace what one piece of advice she would give to a young lady who may be the next one standing in the hallway, waiting and wondering if she really wants to play.

“If you’re going to do it, do it all the way,” she said. “Parties and other distractions can wait. If you want to be the best, you have to put in the work. That counts on the court and in the classroom. Don’t halfway do anything.”

Union College is a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, the Appalachian Athletic Conference and the Mid-South Conference. The Bulldogs are led by head coach Jeremy Wise, who is in his fifth season at Union after taking over in 2013. He has guided the Bulldogs to back to back AAC Tournament Championships, winning in 2014 and 2015 and advancing to the NAIA National Championship Tournament each of those years. Last season they finished with a record of 34-11. Their final game was a win over the University of Jamestown in the NAIA Volleyball National Championships – Pool C.

“We’re all very proud of her,” her mother Londa Alley said. “This is a great opportunity and will open a lot of doors for her. We’re very thankful to everyone who has helped get her to this point.”

“It was a journey,” her father Steve Alley said. “We thought everything was decided and locked in, but then just about three weeks ago things got crazy again. Her AJVC coach Eddie Maynard found a couple of school that were in need of a setter and all of a sudden she was back in it. We’re very thankful and honestly humbled that she’s going to get this chance. I can’t thank everyone who has been involved enough.”

“My family has been there for me and I can’t thank them enough,” Candace said. “My mom and dad and my sister Amanda are the greatest. I know they’re always there for me. I just want to thank all of my coaches and promise I’ll work hard to make the most of this chance.”

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