Shepard’s McAlpin gives her all for the team
By Tim O’Brien For Sun-Times Media September 6, 2013 5:03PM
Shepard's Chrystal McAlpin (10) goes for the block during a match last year against Oak Forest. | File photo
What Shepard High School’s Chrystal McAlpin lacked in experience, she certainly made up for in enthusiasm.
Heading to Shepard as a freshman, she had little organized experience with volleyball, but she knew one thing for sure.
She wanted to play volleyball and play it well.
“My freshman year I had a drive to play volleyball, and I knew it was what I wanted to do,” McAlpin said after a recent match. “I had no experience at all, and when I say I was a shabby (player), I was shabby. I knew I had to start from the bottom and work my way up.”
Well, a few weeks into her senior year, it appears McAlpin has definitely worked her way up. The 6-foot-1 senior is a starting middle blocker for Shepard’s girls volleyball team and also has received full scholarship offers from a handful of schools.
Not bad considering she started her high school volleyball career as a team manager more than a player. As a freshman, McAlpin worked with the sophomore team as a manager. Court time was rare. If fans were looking for her, it was usually on the bench. Two-plus years later, she isn’t resentful in the least.
The experience on the bench has helped her become the player she is today.
“I barely played so I was a sideline stat girl,” McAlpin said with a laugh. “I got my reps in the gym with the team.”
More than anything though, she was doing what she wanted. By her sophomore year, McAlpin had joined a club volleyball team, Club Kace.
Last season as a junior, McAlpin finished with 77 kills and 39 blocks as a starting middle for the Astros.
Now a senior, she is hopefully a key ingredient to Shepard’s success in the young season. With six sophomores on the varsity team, McAlpin’s varsity experience will be essential according to Shepard coach Dan Grunauer.
“Chrystal is not one to make excuses for herself, and she’s a very resilient person,” Grunauer said. “We talk about ‘No one will outwork us,’ and I couldn’t ask for anyone to model that more than Chrystal. She lives it.”
It isn’t always easy for McAlpin, who is an honor roll student at Shepard and is also on the track and field team as a shot put and discus thrower. Even getting to school at times, especially on weekend practices, can be tough, but McAlpin does it with a smile on her face.
“I live in Calumet Park so I’m not close at all to Shepard,” McAlpin said. “On weekends, if my Gram isn’t able to come pick me up, I’d take the bus. I have no problem jumping on the Pace bus to get to practice and walking the rest of the way.”
As an underclassman, McAlpin admits she didn’t want to impose on teammates. Since then, her Astros teammates have been more than willing to offer a helping hand.
“My teammates are always willing to help me out,” McAlpin said. “They’ve let me know as a program they’re here to support me, and they will make that drive to come help me get to practice.”
Looking ahead to a possible college career, McAlpin has received scholarship offers from Chicago State, Northern Illinois and University of Illinois-Chicago.
That’s for later, for now at least, McAlpin is psyched about what her teammates can do right now. Even following a heartbreaking three-set loss to highly ranked Lincoln-Way Central, the senior middle answered with a smile on her face.
“We know that win or lose we have to give it our all,” McAlpin said. “We definitely did tonight. Kinda wish we had that last point back, but we didn’t so we carry on and let it be known we gave it our all. That positive spirit will help us as a team.”