Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Texas A&M sophomore volleyball player Allie Sawatzky made her first trip to College Station, Texas, in the month of January, and was greeted with one of the most inhospitable aspects of the state of Texas: the heat.
A 17-year-old at the time, she traveled over 1,400 miles from St. Andrews, Manitoba, Canada, where it's more common to see snow plows than air conditioning units.
"The first day I came here, it was somewhere around 90 degrees," said Sawatzky. "I was like ‘what is this? I'm wearing pants!'"
However, somewhere between the heat and humidity, Sawatzky decided that Texas A&M was the school for her. The decision was made possible through her connection with A&M Head Coach Laurie Corbelli.
Corbelli first learned of the Canadian citizen when Sawatzky's family sent out letters of interest to multiple schools around the United States. After receiving film and some stats, Corbelli made a trip to see the setter play in Manitoba. It was the coach's turn to experience some strange weather.
"It was great to go up and watch her compete, although driving through all the snow was a challenge," Corbelli said. "But I really liked what I saw."
With roots in volleyball due to an older sister, Jill, who played outside hitter for Oregon State, Sawatzky said she knew that playing ball in the United States could be a rewarding and positive experience.
"My sister loved her experience at Oregon State, so I knew that I wanted to go to a state school and that's what I decided to do," Sawatzky said.
After settling into Aggieland, Sawatzky's next challenge was to meet her team. As the team's setter, she was going to be charged to help lead them on the floor.
"I'm generally a quiet person, so it took me a while when I first came in to get used to everything," Sawatzky said. "I was only 17-years-old, and they were already a unit. But I think by fall that year, being with everyone, I realized that I am a part of the team and can help lead."
Corbelli said that she knew Sawatzky was well-suited to be Texas A&M's setter after meeting her.
"When you look for a setter, you're looking for personality," Corbelli said. "You're looking for character and leadership skills and with Allie, there was definitely a lot of that."
Corbelli also said that's leadership skills were something that the team needed to get used to as well.
"She's the epitome of leading by example; she's not very vocal," Corbelli said. "She leads best with her composure and her poise. It's very difficult to tell if she's shaken up, she's just so consistent with the way she's operating. I think in those ways, she's done a fantastic job of leading."
Standing at 6-foot-2-inches, Sawatzky is the second tallest player on the A&M squad.
She uses her size to contact the ball very high above the net, allowing her to be very aggressive from her setter position.
And being left-handed, she has a similar advantage to a left-handed pitcher in baseball against players who are used to a right-handed setter.
"A left-handed 6-foot-2 setter was what initially caught our eye," Corbelli said. "And then her play spoke for itself. She provides a really nice offensive threat for us."
After becoming accustomed to a new climate and a new group of teammates, showing her skills on the court was a simple task.
As a freshman, Sawatzky produced a successful first year. She was named to the All-Big 12 Honorable Mention team and the Big 12 All-Freshman team as well as receiving A&M's Most Improved Player award.
This season, Sawatzky recorded a triple-double against Baylor on September 28 with 11 kills, 46 assists and 11 digs.
Outside of volleyball, Sawatzky has become engulfed in the traditions and spirit of Aggieland. Before coming to A&M, she had never been to an American football game before.
"I didn't go to Fish Camp, so everything here is new to me and very different from back home," Sawatzky said. "But it's great being at this school, everyone supports everyone. It's a big family, and I'm happy to be a part of it."