MAGNOLIA – Southern Arkansas University Director of Athletics Steve Browning has announced that Alli O’Banion has been named the tenth head coach of the Mulerider Volleyball program. The official announcement was made at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, December 8. It is a homecoming of sorts for O’Banion who enjoyed a successful playing career as a right side/middle hitter for the Muleriders from 2014 to 2017.
“Our committee did an outstanding job orchestrating an extensive search in finding our next head coach of the Mulerider Volleyball program,” Browning said. “We are very familiar with Alli’s playing career and the success she had as a Mulerider, but it was also important for us to see the success she has had since leaving Magnolia. She encompasses who we are here at SAU and she understands what it means to be a Mulerider. We are very excited to bring her back home.”
Introduced for official collegiate competition in 1977, the Mulerider Volleyball program has amassed 689 wins and won four conference championships. O’Banion’s appointment as the newest leader of Mulerider Volleyball makes her the ninth head coach in the program’s NCAA Era (1995-96).
“I’d like to thank Dr. Berry and Coach Browning for giving me the opportunity to be the next head coach of SAU volleyball,” remarked O’Banion on Wednesday afternoon. “I am excited and eager to return to Mulerider Country and I look forward to working with these young athletes to start building a strong and competitive Mulerider Volleyball program.”
O’Banion’s most recent stop on her journey back to Magnolia was at NJCAA Division II Northeastern Oklahoma A&M where she served as head coach of the Lady Norse in 2020 and 2021. During her time in Miami, O’Banion led NEO to a combined record of 32-17, including an 18-9 mark this past fall, while garnering back-to-back NJCAA Region II titles. She mentored two NJCAA All-Region II performers and an NJCAA Division II All-American in her two seasons.
Prior to becoming a head coach, O’Banion was an assistant coach at Great American Conference rival Ouachita for two seasons. Primarily working with hitters and blockers, O’Banion aided OUA to a collective 37 wins in 2018 and 2019, including a 23-9 mark in her first year with a fourth place finish in the league’s regular season and a third place result at the conference championship.
Before returning to the Great American Conference as a coach, O’Banion spent time as an intern at Logan High School in Utah from December 2017 through May 2018. She assisted the athletic department in game day operations, while working alongside the athletic director, head strength and conditioning coach and volleyball coach. During that time, she coached club volleyball at Cache Valley Volleyball Club.
A three-time All-Great American Conference Honorable Mention selection, a one-time league defensive player of the week, and a 2017 GAC All-Academic honoree as a Mulerider, O’Banion’s four seasons at Southern Arkansas were memorable. The central California native was a part of 51 wins and two conference tournament teams, including the 2015 squad which reached the GAC Tournament finals for the first time in program history.
In her time as a Mulerider, O’Banion played in a program-best 470 career sets making 107 starts in 126 matches played; the second-most all-time. She is one of just two players in the program’s rally scoring era to eclipse 1,000 kills and 300 total blocks in a career. Her career totals in kills (1,023), total blocks (314), total points (1,208.0) and attack attempts (2,783) all rank third all-time in program history, while her 274 career block assists are the most ever by a Mulerider. As a senior, O’Banion became the eighth player in Great American Conference Volleyball history to reach 1,000 career kills and the seventh to record 300 total blocks.
The lone Mulerider to receive All-GAC recognition three times, O’Banion capped her playing career in Magnolia with 34 double-figure kill performances and 56 matches with at least 3.0 total blocks. In the final two matches of her career she produced attack percentages of .361 and .311 respectively to vault herself into the top ten all-time in career attack percentage at .201.
In May of 2018, O’Banion received her Bachelor of Science in Sports Management & Human Performance from Southern Arkansas University. Two years later, she earned a Master of Science in Sports Administration from Henderson State University.