Perseverance and patience paid off into something special for Alyssa Hasler.

Hasler capped off her collegiate career in style following a stellar senior season at the University of Illinois-Springfield.

The former Marian volleyball star was saluted with the school’s Female Athlete of the Year honor on May 5.

The accolade was much more than just another individual award to the record-setting middle blocker for the Prairie Stars.

“To me, it was good reward for our volleyball program,” said Hasler in a phone interview Tuesday. “It was not just an individual award. It was for our entire team and coaching staff.

“I was really excited when they announced it. It was such a huge accomplishment for me and the program.”

Hasler, who is set to graduate this Saturday, was the cornerstone of helping revive the UIS program. The team was just 7-24 her freshman season and then 11-20 her sophomore year and went 4-14 in conference play both seasons. The Prairie Stars then went 22-11 in 2017 before a historic 2018 season. UIS put together a 25-8 season and won the program’s first Great Lakes Valley Conference championship at 15-3. The team also made its first-ever appearance in the NCAA Division 2 National Tournament under the direction of fourth-year head coach Trey Salinas.

Hasler, a 6-0 middle blocker, admits that is was tough early on as the losses on the court piled up.

“It was super frustrating losing,” related Hasler. “I came from a program (Marian) where we did not lose very often. It was tough. I was not used to it. I would go to my Mom (Mary) in my freshman year. She would encourage me and tell me to stick with it that it would get better. She was right.

“I’m most proud for sticking with it and riding it out. I’m proud that everyone here stuck with it. It was a tough, emotional journey. But to be part of the turnaround here was awesome. I take a lot of pride in laying the foundation. I just hope the girls who are still here and come after me will do even better than we did.”

“The big thing was that we could have not have been successful without our coaches here. Trey (head coach Trey Salinas) said it was a process and that we would grow and get better and we did. We had a change in the culture. Everyone bought in and was invested and wanted to win last season. The mentality was one of the biggest changes. And the competitiveness of the girls.”

Hasler, who was a prep standout for coach Dan Anderson’s Knights, became the most successful player in program history. She earned third-team All-American honors last fall becoming the first All-American in program history. Hasler ranked second in the nation at 1.56 blocks per set as she totaled 173 blocks on the season.

“I give most of my success as a blocker to my blocking coach (assistant coach Tina Salinas),” remarked Hasler. “Blocking was the weakest part of my game in high school and it became the best part of my game here. Tina taught me how to swing block. She put in the time to teach me the key fundamentals. The keys are timing and reading the setter.”

Hasler, who was one of four seniors, ranked 12th in the GLVC with a .267 hitting percentage as she slammed down 341 kills last fall. She earned first-team All-GLVC honors for the second straight season and was a first-team All-Region pick.

Hasler comes from an incredibly athletic family. Father Curt, who is 6-foot-6, pitched in the White Sox organization and is now the bullpen coach for the White Sox. Brother Drew, who is 6-7, pitched at Valparaiso University and in the White Sox system and is now a coach with the Winston-Salem Dash, the Class A Advanced affiliate of the White Sox.

“Our family is very athletic, but also very competitive,” Hasler said. “Our parents always encouraged us to get out and be active. My Dad built me wooden boxes at home to use for jump training. We had to work for it. It was an athletic house where we loved sports.”

Hasler finished her career ranked first in program history with 602 blocks. She also ranks second all time in points with 1,371 and third in kills with 1,010. She hopes to be a grad assistant for volleyball as she pursues a master’s in clinical counseling following commencement this weekend.

“My four years here were really amazing,” concluded Hasler.

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