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On Target

Lowe Takes Non-traditional Route to a Spot on STLCC Volleyball Roster

Allayna Lowe
Allayna Lowe

At St. Louis Community College, non-traditional student-athletes have never been a rarity.

Nearly each year, an athlete or two who has taken a circuitous route back to collegiate competition has joined STLCC. But rarely have athletes taken quite as wide a detour as Allayna Lowe did.

Lowe is entering her freshman year, and will see her first collegiate competition this fall with STLCC’s volleyball team—at the age of 26,  a full seven years older than most of her freshman teammates.

Lowe, a 2004 graduate of Central Visual and Performing Arts High School, first attended the Florissant Valley campus in 2007, but had to withdraw from classes following a very difficult semester that included an abusive relationship that sent her to the work force earlier than expected. She also cared for her son Calvin, who is now five years old. She also has a one-year-old daughter, London.

It was at the urging of her husband, Dwayne, Lowe began to view a return to the volleyball court as a possibility. She contacted STLCC head coach Johnna Kinney this fall, not knowing what kind of reaction she might get as someone who hadn’t played competitively in nine years.

“I was really nervous,” Lowe said. “I was really concerned that she wouldn’t want to pick me up because of my age, but also because of my situation.”

As it turns out, bringing Lowe onto the roster could turn out to be one of the best things to happen to the program this year. Though the Archers are just completing their third week of practice and have yet to play in competition, the example that Lowe has set for her teammates has been immeasurable.

“Having her around, she has helped to reinforce things that coaches teach,” Kinney said. “They’re used to hearing it from coaches, but it helps to hear it from a peer level.”

Also helpful for Kinney has been the work ethic that Lowe has shown, and her willingness to continue to learn. For Lowe, being coachable was a priority in her second chance at college athletics.

“I feel like I still have that – being taught,” Lowe said. “I don’t feel like I have gotten above my elders and I feel like I can still be coachable. I’m still trying to fit in as much as possible.”

The Road Back

Ever since Lowe’s first foray into collegiate athletics ended abruptly, the notion of returning, however fanciful it may have seemed, remained. While Lowe was working one of the multitude of jobs in the recreation center and hotel industry over the last five years, she quickly experienced the financial challenges of trying to provide without a college education.

Her years as a young mother were rife with transition and hardship, as she bounced from job to job in order to make ends meet for as the sole provider for not only herself, but also for Calvin.

“I was a single parent doing the best I (could),” Lowe said. “Going from apartment to apartment, just barely making it. I think I’ve just passed the ‘barely making it, going check to check’ period.’ I need a career, to push forward, and to make a better life for my kids.”

That desire has brought her back to STLCC, to pursue a degree in early childhood education.

But even with her return to school, she had a bit of unfinished business remaining on the volleyball court.

Over the past year, at her husband’s urging, she began to contemplate another run at collegiate athletics.

“He sees the drive in me, and he said I should go back and try again, before it’s too late,” Lowe said. “He’s kind of the reason I wanted to come back. Because if he sees it, and he sees that I have the drive and passion, this is my chance to try it.”

Quickly, Lowe has reacquainted herself with the rigors of volleyball. The early-morning start times. The four-hour practices. The countless laps up and down the stairs in Florissant Valley gymnasium. But those challenges, which many athletes may willfully but begrudgingly confront, pale in comparison to Lowe’s other school-related concerns.  Lowe is currently seeking to obtain on-site childcare, which the college provides, and also to resolve issues with financial aid. In the meantime, her volleyball scholarship has been what has made a return to the classroom a reality.

With two young children, a full-time load of classes and a responsibility to her team, both in practices and games, Lowe certainly realizes the unusual set of challenges she will face this fall, compared to the typical college student’s responsibilities. Even so, she is determined to seize her latest, and quite possibly, last opportunity on the court.

“I feel like I have a lot on my shoulders, and I haven’t quite gotten used to it yet,” Lowe said. “I’m expecting it to be difficult, but I also feel like this is my last shot, and I want to take full advantage of it.”