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Flames Feature: The Ties That Bind
The daughter of David and Rhonda Pike, the junior, as well as her older brother and sister, grew up in a very supportive environment. In fact, it was due to the encouragement of her mother that Pike wound up on the volleyball court.
A natural athlete, Pike played basketball and volleyball in high school, but planned to pursue basketball in college. Seeing her success in volleyball, however, her mother persuaded Pike to stick with the sport. And that's a decision that she can certainly live with.
In the midst of a breakout season, Pike leads the Lady Flames offensively, racking up 182 kills so far this year (entering the week). After a stellar performance at the Army of One Classic, the junior was named Big South Volleyball Player of the Week, making her the first Liberty player to do so in two years.
"Winning the Big South [Volleyball] Player of the Week was definitely one of the highlights of my career," said a smiling Pike. "It was truly an honor. I didn't expect it at all and it was such a surprise."
Pike attributes her success this season to a combination of factors. "I think my skills and my work ethic finally caught up with each other," the hard-working hitter noted.
But her success has been a long time in the making. "Mary Alice came into the program and was really a competitive kid," recalled head coach Shane Pinder, now in his third year at the helm of the Lady Flames. "She brought some skill and really had the ability to help us early on in her career, but she started to have some injury issues."
"Really for her, it has been two years of earning her position on the floor and then the injuries pulling her off it," continued Pinder. "It has been kind of a battle for her."
Even in the midst of personal triumph over injury, Pike acknowledges her teammates as the real key to her success. "The team is really close," said Pike. "We spend so much time together that we are really like family. We have our good times and bad times, but we help each other through it all."
"We are a home away from home," added her head coach. "At least, that is what we are striving to be."
In fact, it was the feeling of togetherness that drew the Durham, N.C., native to Liberty in the first place. "I loved the atmosphere of the team. The girls all got along so well," recalled Pike. "I've played on teams where none of the girls were Christians and to compete with girls that really love the Lord is amazing."
Coming from a close-knit family herself, Pike understands the difference that kind of support can make. "It means so much to have my parents at the games, supporting me, whether I am playing or not," Pike explained.
It's the support and guidance that Pike received from her physical family that she hopes to impart to her volleyball family this season.
"My role has really changed since my freshman season," noted the junior. "The first two years, I was behind Janell [Migeot], learning as much as I could. Now I am an upperclassman and there are people looking to me and watching what I do. I have taken on more of a leadership role."
"She has brought a lot of leadership," affirmed Pinder. "All the way around, she is a kid on the floor that everybody looks to make plays when we need them."
Despite all that she has achieved with the Lady Flames, Pike still looks ahead to greater goals. "We've made great strides just in the last two weeks," beamed Pike. "I can only imagine what we will be able to accomplish over the next two seasons."
The key to achieving the team's goals this season, according to the junior, are going to be creating a supportive environment. And, while support from within their ranks is essential, Pike knows just how important the LU fans are. "I would love to see more fans at the game, supporting us," said the right-side hitter.
Whether it's the support of her family back home, her family on the team or her LU family, Mary Alice Pike relies on the roar of the crowd to cheer her on to greatness. She would like to invite you to come and be a part of the Liberty volleyball family too, as she and her fellow Lady Flames take the court in their final six home matches of the season.
By Mollie Richards
Athletic Media Relations Student Assistant for Volleyball