Even though she didn’t start playing it right away, freshman Mylana Byrd was meant to play volleyball.
Before volleyball, Byrd played soccer as a midfielder and defender. The switch came when she was 10 years old.
She decided to switch over for two reasons — her mother was a middle blocker at Idaho, and she tried out on her cousin’s club team and took to it right away.
“It definitely set a high expectation,” Byrd said. “I want to make an impact, and I want to win something, so it shows, not that I’m better than my mom, but you know.”
Byrd wears the number 15 because it was her mother’s number at Idaho.
At 6-foot-2, one would think Byrd followed in the footsteps of her mother and is a middle blocker for Alabama, but three years ago she made the transition from middle blocker to setter.
“With setting you touch every single ball, and you kind of control all the offense that happens,” Byrd said. “As a setter I like it because I’m doing something for my hitters. Every set that I give them, every kill that they get is because of me and because I helped them out. I just like that connection.”
When her recruitment started, she was determined to be a setter. When coach Ed Allen came to recruit her as a middle blocker, she turned him down and said she wanted to be a setter.
“I knew I needed a middle blocker more than a setter,” Allen said. “When we recruited her, I said ‘hey, I know you want to set the ball, but that’s not really why I’m recruiting you. If it happens to work out that you get to set the ball in three rotations and you get to be a hitter in three rotations, or whatever that role may be so be it, but I’m not recruiting you to be a 5-1 setter.’”
His pitch worked, and on the second day of her visit, Byrd committed.
Allen didn’t recruit her to play in a 5-1 system, meaning there are five hitters and a setter on the court at all times, so she plays in a modified 5-1. Whenever starting setter Meghan Neelon rotates to the front of the line, Byrd comes in from the bench.
“That allows us to use her strengths and combine them with what Meg’s strengths are,” Allen said. “Between the two of them, we like to think that we have the best combination of one setter you put in the country.”
The combination is pretty successful. The two have combined for 615 of the 682 assists on the team. Byrd, who’s defensive strength is at the net, is fourth on the team with 29 blocks, while Neelon is third on the team with 130 digs.
Alabama faces South Carolina on Friday then No. 11 Florida on Sunday.
“I’m excited to get into more SEC play,” Byrd said. “That’s why I came here, because I want to play harder teams and improve.”