Entering his senior season, senior Jonathan Alleman has high expectations for the Cougar squad as well as himself. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
A word of advice when standing on the opposite side of the volleyball net from Jonathan Alleman: Get out of the way!
In high school, one player said the above phrase after a match against Alleman because of his hard swing and quick rotation. Last season he helped the BYU men's volleyball team to the NCAA Championship match.
Entering his senior season, this 6-3 opposite side hitter from Yorba Linda, Calif., has high expectations for the Cougar squad as well as for himself. Alleman's determination and work ethic have attributed to his success on the court and in the classroom.
Alleman started volleyball at a young age, played throughout high school.
As the third of four boys, Jon found his niche in the world of volleyball. In the fourth grade, he and a group of friends started playing in the backyard. With the help of his older brothers and closest friends, Alleman found strength in volleyball, where he could express his competitive nature and his need to excel.
"My brother set up a net in the backyard so we could play. Sometimes college players would come over and we would watch them play," Alleman said.
But volleyball wasn't always his favorite sport. Alleman also enjoyed playing basketball. His mother, Ilene, said his dad loved basketball and dreamed his son would be a basketball star. However, Alleman thought he wouldn't have enough height to play, so he turned to volleyball.
"Even though Jon's dad loved basketball, he recognized Jon's interest and talent in volleyball," Ilene said. "So he supported the direction that Jon wanted to go."
In club volleyball, Alleman earned numerous honors, including two All-American awards. He was also named to the Volleyball Magazine Fab 50 and was Orange County Player of the Year in 1997. As a scholar-athlete at Esperanza High School, he received All-CIF honors twice, in 1996 and 1997.
Winning the state championship as a senior was Alleman's most memorable match from high school. The championship was even sweeter because he was able to share it with his best friend on the team. This moment prepared him to face even tougher competition at the collegiate level.
He established contact with legendary BYU Coach Carl McGown through Alleman's father. McGown watched him play at the Junior Olympics in 1996 and initiated contact with this talented athlete. But during his senior year, Alleman had to make one of the biggest decisions of his life: BYU or Stanford?
"Being from California I always wanted to go to Stanford, but it was the same time I was gaining a testimony of the Church," Alleman said.
Calvin Alleman, Jon's father, said he tried not to influence Jon one way or the other. "We tried to expose him to opportunities and teach him principles and ultimately leave it up to him," he said.
Both coaches from Stanford and BYU visited the Alleman home. After praying about which school to go to, Alleman felt like Stanford was not the right choice. Just to make sure, he prayed a few more times but received the same answer. Inspiration drove this athlete down an unexpected path and he ultimately found his place at BYU.
After serving a LDS mission to Bulgaria, Alleman returned to BYU in 2001 for his freshman year.
"From my mission I learned to have more confidence in myself and realized that there were others to serve, not just myself," he said.
Alleman's freshman year marked the Cougars' second NCAA Championship in three years and the beginning of his contributions to the Cougar squad.
He posted 16 kills against sixth-ranked Long Beach State and hit a career-best .529 against No. 5 Stanford, the school he almost chose. Due to a sprained ankle, Alleman wasn't able to start in the championship match and had to watch from the Cougar bench. He said it was great to be a part of team although he wasn't able to play.
Not only does he succeed on the court, Alleman produces in the classroom. He has maintained a high GPA while majoring in accounting.
His parents attribute his success at BYU to the high standards he sets for himself, whether in the classroom or on the court.
"He was very self-disciplined as a student and as an athlete," Ilene Alleman said. "He is able to have a goal, catch the vision of that goal, and work towards it."
His ability to accomplish his goals has brought him national honors as one of the top men's volleyball athletes. Last season, he earned Second Team All-American honors and was named to the NCAA All-Tournament Team. Alleman was also named USA Today/AVCA National Player of the Week two times during the 2003 season.
He said motivation comes through the fear of failure. "If I don't do my best, I'll regret it," he said. "It's the same kind of thing that drives other athletes in their sports."
Alleman's relationship with his family has also been a major factor in his success as an athlete. One of the most satisfying moments for his father was when Jon won a significant match in high school. After the competition, the first thing Alleman did was run up the bleachers to his dad and give him a hug.
Alleman is also good at adjusting. On May 38, 2002 just between his sophomore and junior year, Tom Peterson was named the head coach of the BYU men's volleyball program, replacing legendary coach Carl McGown.
Peterson returned to BYU (he was head coach of the BYU club program from 1984-1988) with 17 years of collegiate head coaching experience. Peterson also led the Penn State men's volleyball team to a National Championship in 1994 and was named 1994 Coach of the Year.
Even with the tough responsibility of picking up where McGown left off, Alleman said Peterson deserves a lot of credit.
Peterson said Alleman made the transition easier for the new coaching staff. He said Alleman was supportive and accepted the different coaching styles.
Peterson has even higher expectations for Alleman this coming season. He was designated as the floor captain, the only one authorized to talk to the referees on the court.
"We will be counting on his leadership as a person and a volleyball player," Peterson said. "We substituted him the least because he is the most consistent player. Even when we were struggling at times, we can still count on him to come through."
Volleyball is a sport of extreme intensity and emotion. Focus and concentration are just as important.
"The more I focus on what I'm doing and what the team is doing next, the better I play," Alleman said.
Another adjustment he will have to make this coming season is moving from opposite to outside hitter. Since last year's outside hitters graduated, Alleman will likely fill the position. During the 2003 season, he produced considerable numbers for the Cougars. He registered double-digit kills in 25 of 30 matches, including two 30-kill matches. He also led BYU in kills per game (3.93) and kills on the season (440).
As a junior, Alleman led the Cougars to a Mountain Pacific Sports Federation title after defeating No. 1 Pepperdine in the championship match. BYU advanced to the NCAA Tournament, beating Penn State in the semi-finals and facing Lewis University in the finals. The emotional championship match lasted for three hours with Lewis overcoming the Cougars in five games. Alleman's 18 kills, seven digs and five blocks for the Cougars in the final match earned him NCAA All-Tournament honors.
As a member of the 2001 National Championship team, Alleman has experienced the sweet taste of winning a championship. After finishing second in the NCAA Tournament last season, the Cougars will be looking to senior Alleman to lead the pack.
During the final weeks of last season Alleman was trying to plan his wedding, working to maintain his high GPA to get into BYU's Master's of Accountancy program, and playing in the National Championship.
"It was the hardest semester of my life," he said reflecting back.
Adjusting to married life can be tough for anyone, but for Alleman, being married has made school and sports a lot easier to balance.
"My wife, Tiffany, motivates me and is very supportive of me in volleyball," Alleman said.
He hopes to finish his master's degree and eventually go to law school. Afterwards, Alleman said he would like to get back into volleyball as a coach.
So what does the future look like for Jonathan Alleman?
"I would like to win a National Championship my senior year," he said with a smile.
Based on his accomplishments and the Cougars' winning tradition, his goal might not be that far away.