All in the Family

Aug. 7, 2013

Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Iowa City natives Kari Mueller and Alli O’Deen chased their dreams of playing collegiate volleyball and arrived at the University of Iowa for different reasons. Both have one thing in common: They have a family connection to the Hawkeye volleyball program.

Mueller focused on finding the right fit academically and athletically, rather than immediately choosing to follow in her sister Signe Mueller’s footsteps. Signe was a Hawkeye from 2007-09.

“My choice of playing at Iowa didn’t have anything to do with where my sister went,” said Mueller. “We both kind of chased our own dream and did exactly what we wanted to do. But growing up in Iowa City meant we both wanted to be a Hawkeye, it wasn’t exactly following in her footsteps. We just followed our dreams.”

On the other hand, O’Deen made up her mind early that Iowa was an all-around fit and decided she would do everything she could to put on the Hawkeye uniform like her mother, Amy (Pontow) O’Deen (1977-80).

She dreamed of playing in front of family members in Carver Hawkeye Arena.

“Ever since I was a little girl, I always wanted to be a Hawkeye, just like my mom,” O’Deen said. “I wanted to be close to home so my family could watch me compete. Playing in the Big Ten was always a huge dream of mine because it is the top volleyball conference in the nation.”

Regardless of how the juniors arrived, they both agree that having Iowa volleyball in common with family has been an experience that has allowed them to forge deeper bonds and receive invaluable advice.

Since Signe Mueller entered the coaching profession following graduation, the majority of her advice was centered on being a leader and having the right attitude. With Signe unable to attend many games due to her coaching schedule, Kari carries her sister’s pointers with her and puts them into action on the court and in practice.

“What you want it to be is what you will make of it, so it’s all up to me if I’m going to be happy and enjoy it,” Mueller said. “It’s all up to my attitude of going into it and not letting others control my feelings. She told me to have fun and play the game I love.”

O’Deen’s mother — and the rest of her family — has enjoyed this journey with Alli. On another hand, Alli knows that seeing family in the stands is a reminder of how lucky she is to have this experience.

“My mom supported whatever school I chose to attend. She encouraged me to find the best fit academically, athletically and socially,” said O’Deen. “Once I committed to Iowa, she told me to enjoy the time I have to play because it flies by quickly and to always stay confident in my abilities. She also reminds me to always be grateful and appreciate the special opportunity I have been given to be a Hawkeye.”

The Mueller and O’Deen families would agree — wearing black and gold while living and learning in Iowa City, is a great place to be.