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(Courtesy UTA Athletics)

Waxahachie alum Alli Wells breaks UTA volleyball record on final home serve

By Travis M. Smith | Ellis County Sports

ARLINGTON — Before calling it a career, Alli Wells made it a career for the record books on the volleyball court at the University of Texas at Arlington.

Wells is a 2019 graduate of Waxahachie High School, where she was twice named to the all-district team under then-head coach Sandy Faussett-Stoops. She vocally, emotionally and defensively led the Lady Indians to a storied playoff run that has since continued into its 22nd consecutive season.

Once on the UTA campus, it’s honestly easier to break down the highlights of Wells’ career in bullet points. Those highlights can be found at the bottom of this article. You’re here for the record.

When Wells’ left foot left the ground just beyond the backline and her right hand sent yet another on-target serve over the net inside UTA’s College Park Center on Nov. 4, it was very likely her last chance at history during a home match. 

UTA had already won the first two sets against Seattle University in the Mavericks’ final home match of the Western Athletic Conference schedule, 25-17, 25-13. The Mavs led the final set 24-12 when Wells fired over her serve. 

The senior libero quickly dug out the first Seattle attack, which set a new UTA all-time career-digs record at 2,034 and led to a match-winning kill by Briana Brown. Her family quickly sprang to their feet with 2-0-3-4 in gold balloons to recognize the achievement.

The sequence of Alli Wells’ record-setting dig that led to one final family celebration from the stands. (All photos courtesy UTA Athletics)

Wells entered her graduate senior season at the University of Texas at Arlington with 1,632 career digs — just 401 digs from breaking the Mavericks’ all-time record set by Alicia Shaffer (2,033) from 2008-11. 

Wells described the feeling and support following the record-setting dig and match win as “surreal.”

“I knew I was getting close, but you never know how you are actually going to feel until it happens. It’s kinda crazy. I’m excited I got to do it in the CPC, too,” said Wells to the UTA sports information department following the match and celebration with family and friends.

“[…] It’s kind of the icing on the cake to do it at the end of the season in my fifth year,” added Wells as she fought back a little unplanned emotion. “And that I could do it in front of all of our fans that always show up and support us…it was just so great.”

Diggin’ it year by year 2019: 114 (1.75) in 65 sets, 24 matches 2020: 526 (5.91) in 89 sets, 23 matches 2021: 534 (5.04) in 106 sets, 27 matches 2022: 458 (4.20) in 109 sets, 27 matches 2023: 460 (3.80) in 121 sets, 32 matches Career: 2,092 (4.27) in 490 sets over 133 matches played. Wells finished 2023 with the 9th-most career digs among active DI players.

Diggin’ it year by year

  • 2019: 114 (1.75) in 65 sets, 24 matches
  • 2020: 526 (5.91) in 89 sets, 23 matches
  • 2021: 534 (5.04) in 106 sets, 27 matches
  • 2022: 458 (4.20) in 109 sets, 27 matches
  • 2023: 460 (3.80) in 121 sets, 32 matches
  • Career: 2,092 (4.27) in 490 sets over 133 matches played.

UTA head coach JT Wenger laughed when asked if he or the team gave any thought to Wells closing in on the record.

“We got close to talking about it when there was that last challenge, but it felt a lot like in baseball when that pitcher has a no-hitter and nobody wants to talk to him or her,” he said with a slight shoulder shrug. “We talked around it, but it was really special for it to happen on that last point. You couldn’t have scripted it any better than that.”

Wenger added, “What a special opportunity to take over that record on her home floor and on senior day. That’s really special.”

Wenger described Wells, working toward a master’s degree in health care administration, as a “very intuitive play” who has played DI volleyball at a “high level for a long time.” Wells finished 2023 with the 9th-most career digs among active DI players. 

“She has always been a student of the game, and that has continued to increase as she has been in the program and as she’s gotten a little older and a little more mature,” Wenger continued. “She sees things very well, knows where to be and knows how to get her body where she wants to go.”

“[…] Her mark on this program will be felt for years,” he added. “Her dedication and her passion in all aspects of her life, whether that be academic, whether it’s social or whether it’s volleyball — it’s just been a joy to coach her. And we will certainly miss her.”

Without further ado or delay, below are Wells’ collegiate accomplishments courtesy of UTA Athletics, which led to her record-setting career on the backline: 

• 2019 – Freshman: Sun Belt Commissioner’s List. Appeared in 24 matches, finishing with 13 assists, five service aces and 114 digs.

• 2020 – Sophomore: Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year, First Team All-Sun Belt, Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Week (10/13, 10/20, 11/17), and Sun Belt Commissioner’s List. Appeared in 23 matches, finishing third among all NCAA Division I players in total digs (526).

• 2021 – Junior: Second Team All-Sun Belt, UTA Classic All-Tournament Team, Sun Belt All-Tournament Team, Sun Belt Commissioner’s List, Sun Belt Preseason All-Conference Team, Sun Belt Preseason Libero of the Year, Sun Belt Preseason Defensive Player of the Year, and Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Week (9/7, 10/5, 10/19, 11/16).

• 2022: Senior: WAC Defensive Player of the Week (10/24), UTSA Invitational All-Tournament Team and Academic All-WAC Team. Led the Mavs defensive attack with a team-best 458 digs (4.20/set). Registered a season-best 33 digs against Abilene Christian (10/20), which was the third-most in any match by a WAC player during the season and led to her eighth career conference defensive player of the week honor. Finished season 41st among active NCAA Division I players in career digs.

• 2023 – Graduate Senior: Amy Svoboda Memorial Classic All-Tournament Team, Tulsa Invitational All-Tournament Team, UTA Invitational All-Tournament Team. Wells totaled 460 digs, a career-high 123 assists, 19 aces and three kills over 32 matches (121 sets). She finished the season with a career-best 27 matches of 10+ digs, including 16 with at least 15 and four with 20 or more. Wells ranked 98th among NCAA Division I players in total digs at season’s end. She recorded her 2,000th career dig against SFA (10/30) before breaking the program’s all-time record with No. 2,034 on the final rally of her collegiate home career against Seattle U (11/4).

PHOTO GALLERY 

All photos courtesy UTA Athletics

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Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith

tsmith@elliscosports.com

About Travis M. Smith

Travis M. Smith is the owner and content director of Ellis County Sports and has over a decade of award-winning sports coverage. He most recently served as the digital sports director for KBEC 1390AM/99.1FM. He is the former managing editor of the Waxahachie Daily Light, Midlothian Mirror and Glen Rose Reporter.

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