Crying and homesick, Megan Tallman called her mother from the Holiday Inn lobby bathroom and asked to go home after her first workout made her feel like she was going to die.
Julie Tallman told her daughter coming home was not an option and asked her what she was going to do with the opportunity.
IU volleyball’s senior setter’s response sits in the record book, as Megan is now the program’s all-time leader in career assists in the rally scoring era.
“The first time that I knew I could play Big Ten volleyball was my first game in my freshman year,” Megan said. “It’s very overwhelming and it’s very hard to handle. There were times in the summer where I would call my mom and say, ‘I think they made a mistake. I don’t think I’m supposed to be a Big Ten volleyball player.’”
Now in her senior year, volleyball has taken the once-timid Megan to places she couldn’t have imagined, from playing in Europe to visiting the September 11 Memorial and Museum and Alcatraz Island.
Just a day before she planned on committing to another university, Megan arrived on campus in Bloomington for an official visit. She fell in love with the campus, but it was the family-feel of the team that made Megan tell her mom she would be signing her letter of intent to become a Hoosier.
Julie recalls the exact moment her daughter picked IU. The two women took advantage of a bathroom break as their brief moment of privacy from the recruiting visit and spoke from stall-to-stall.
Megan raved about the school being a dream come true and excitedly claimed she would sign on the spot. The only thing missing, though, was the school’s offer, which her mother reminded her had yet to come.
Not only would she receive the offer, but Megan would also fulfill a promise she made at just 13 years old. Her parents distinctly remember her telling them she would play volleyball with the best of the best.
“Megan is the most driven person I know,” Russell Tallman, Megan’s father, said. “Don’t tell her that she can’t do something because she is going to prove you wrong.”
Volleyball has been a unifying factor for the Tallman family. Megan’s parents met playing volleyball and she and her sister, Danielle, owe their relationship to the sport.
Megan and Danielle didn’t get along well growing up, which almost caused Megan to avoid volleyball altogether, until her father noticed her talent was too good to ignore.
The two girls eventually overlapped for a year on the high school varsity volleyball team and formed a bond, similar to that of best friends, which they carry on today.
“Playing together made us stronger as sisters,” Danielle said. “That was our defining year. We were the first team at our school to win the regional championship and Megan was the starting setter as a freshman. All the seniors respected this little freshman running the team.”
Those leadership skills would be tested at IU, where the Hoosiers won just one major Big Ten match, against then-No. 10 Michigan State, in her freshman year.
Megan was joined by three other freshmen, middle blocker Jazzmine McDonald, outside hitter Allison Hammond and libero Taylor Lebo, that first year and the girls decided together that they would make a difference to change this program.
“The first year was rough and those four have been together since day one,” Julie said. “It’s a class that has made such a huge impact. When she took over that role as setter she had to learn how to lead. This year I couldn’t be more proud of the leader she is.”
Just a few years later, IU is now 16-11 overall, 5-9 in the Big Ten and coming off of two home upset victories over ranked opponents in its last two home matches.
IU Coach Sherry Dunbar-Kruzan attributes the team’s increased success to its newfound winning mentality, something that Megan has been essential in implementing.
“Megan has this unique ability to be very demanding and very influential, but yet the team likes her a lot and that is hard to do,” Dunbar-Kruzan said. “As a setter you don’t get a lot of glory, but they are basically in control of our entire system. She has the unique trait of only caring about winning without taking credit.”
Megan says there has been a culture change since when she first joined the program and that there has been a much bigger emphasis on winning.
She said that this has enabled them to criticize each other without taking it personally, because winning reigns supreme.
“One of the best things that has changed about this program is that every single thing we do is for winning and is for the program and that’s a huge change,” Megan said. “That’s the change that we wanted to make as freshmen. As a senior seeing it start to emerge is an amazing thing.”
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