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The Journey to a Lasting Legacy

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The Journey to a Lasting Legacy

Five years goes by in the blink of an eye. Most college athletes are lucky if they get to pursue their goals over the course of four years, not many get to say they lived out their softball dreams for five. Spending the last five years in a Clemson uniform have been nothing short of spectacular for redshirt senior Alia Logoleo – getting to do it as a founding member of the Tiger Softball program added a unique twist to the adventure.

Coming from a family of athletes, Alia was destined to emerge as a collegiate athlete. When she began her recruiting journey, she saw volleyball in her future, following in the footsteps of her older sister, Avei, who was the first beach volleyball recruit at UAB. As she worked through the recruitment process, she found her heart and aspirations were drawn more towards the diamond rather than the hardwood.

She ultimately made the decision to follow in her mom’s footsteps, who was on the first softball team at Austin Peay State, and her other sister, Kayla, who played junior college softball at Chattanooga State Community College. Alia remembers the initial phone calls she had with Head Coach John Rittman and Associate Head Coach Kyle Jamieson as they describe things that weren’t even physically available – a locker room, a team building, a stadium – that would quickly become her reality. She put her faith and trust in the possibilities of a program that didn’t even have walls around it yet.

“It was like all the little puzzle pieces were coming together,” said Alia. “It was cool to imagine what the next four, and now five, years of my life we’re going to be like.

When teenagers enter college, it’s hard to navigate and pinpoint what the specific journey will look like. Dislocating her shoulder on the first day of practice her freshman year was not on Alia’s expected path. That meant the entire first fall on campus, she was in the dugout rehabbing and watching them prepare for the inaugural season of competition. Getting to the season, seeing the program have early success and having the year cut short due to COVID was even further down her list of ‘predictions.’ She described the entire 2019-20 year as just taking punch after punch after punch.

Being able to return to the field in 2021 gave both the Tigers and Alia the first opportunity to truly punch back. Geared up with star-studded returners and a handful of incoming freshmen ready to prove themselves on the collegiate stage, the softball team stepped into the 2021 ready to shock the world… and shock the world they did. In its first full year of competition, Clemson claimed the ACC Regular Season Title. Alia will forever be etched in Clemson’s record book as being a key contributor to this championship, as the, then, redshirt freshman tallied 10 RBIs in the final game of the Syracuse series after hitting a grand slam, a three-run homer, a two-run homer and a single, which still sits atop Clemson’s single-game records. When asked about what memories she has from the game, she points to her teammates first:

“I remember Millie (Thompson) threw that game and was lights out in the circle. The final score ended up being 19-2, which was just insane for our young program. It’s obviously fun to hit home runs, but there were a lot of people that got on base to help me accomplish that. They all helped contributed to that final score.

We knew something had gotten taken away from us during the 2020 season but becoming regular-season champions in 2021 solidified what we had all worked so hard for. We did it with smiles on our faces, while having fun, while freezing in Syracuse, while batting through injuries – truly all the things. It was amazing to do it together.”

The Tigers used the momentum from the 2021 regular season to propel them into their first postseason berth at the Tuscaloosa Regional. Clemson went on to claim their first postseason win with a run-rule victory against Troy. The Tigers claimed one more victory at the regional before falling to Alabama. Despite the 2021 postseason seeming to be stacked against the Tigers, Clemson came out poised with the right tools to have a successful season.

Alia entered her third year with the program with the mantra that there was a target on Clemson’s back, but it wasn’t something to be intimidated by. The same carried into last season, as Clemson received a Top 16 Seed for the NCAA Tournament in 2022 and 2023 allowed the Tigers to be the home team for regionals. Advancing past regionals in back-to-back years, the Tigers were matched up against Oklahoma State (2022) and Oklahoma (2023) for Supers.

“At the beginning of the program and through the first few years, it was a lot about building the team’s culture and our foundation. It was a lot of hard work, and you see this season, we are in a transition phase where, we are built, we are established, but how do we maintain that? The 2024 season has been an up and down year for us, but our fight has been there – especially as of late, we’ve been putting up huge fights, huge comebacks, huge wins.

We are the type of program that’s going to give you our ‘A-game’ no matter who you are or what battles we are up against. This year has been a transitional season into ‘how do we put everything together’ – we’ve done the hard stuff and we’ve done the easy stuff. It’s about putting it all together now for a deep postseason run. It’s about bringing our team together to embrace the mindset that it’s going to be hard to beat us twice, and if you do, hats off to you. We’re not going to stop working.”

For Alia, it was never a question of whether she would return for her final season. She has looked at this season as a way to give back – to the coaches, the staff, Clemson, truly everyone that has given so much to this program. She graduated with her undergraduate degree a semester early so that she could start her master’s program. Working alongside student-athlete develop has allowed her to grow her leadership experience and prepare for life after softball.

“There’s no way I could not have taken that opportunity to finish my career strong. I wanted to be able to give back to the community just like they’ve given their support to us and to our softball program. These fans are so invested in our program, and I wanted to stay invested with them.”

Helping to fuel this mindset was the trip she took in December of 2023 with the Aiga Foundation traveling to both Hawaii and Amerika Samoa to run softball camps and give back to the community. Of Polynesian decent, she has always been close with her family. She felt inspired to originally pursue athletics because she watched her older siblings play and wanted to be just like them. She specifically recounts growing up and playing volleyball against her siblings and parents to decide who got to choose what they were having for dinner. Growing up, everything she did was around sports, and in turn, everything was built around family and togetherness. It’s developed a culture of support which helped spur Alia’s decision to give back to the community.

“When I was younger, I would go to California to play in Polynesian All-Star games. It was just a bunch of Polynesian softball players coming together to play, barbecue and have fun. It was run by the Aiga Foundation every year, and my uncle helped run everything. Aiga means family, so it has kept everyone in this community close by being able to stay in touch no matter where they are playing collegiately – Mississippi State, UCLA, Oregon State, Oklahoma, etc.

This past December was my first time making the trip, along with about eight other softball players, so our focus was to be around our culture and our community while giving back. It was a great trip to take to learn more about where our family grew up and how things operate on the island. It was great to be able to give back to a place that has provided so much support to girls playing on the mainland. Getting to engage with over 200 girls in a camp setting, some of whom have never played softball before in their lives, left me inspired for the season.”

Alia feels she has a new sense of gratitude and with aspirations to compete for them no matter if it’s at practice or a game because some girls don’t have the opportunity to play. She wants to finish out her final season with the sense that she didn’t leave anything behind or that she should have done more. There are so many young girls that have potential and can do some damage in the D1 softball world, and she wants to serve as a reference for people in the softball world to recognize that girls in Samoa can succeed in this space.

With goals still set on a deep postseason run, Alia, and the rest of the Tigers, aren’t slowing down anytime soon.

“Four years ago, the coaching staff did a great job a showing what was possible with this program. Looking back, we’ve not only reached those goals, we’ve exceeded them, and I still believe there is more left for us this season. The feeling I got when I first visited Clemson is still the feeling I get when I walk into McWhorter Stadium every day.

When I take off my Clemson uniform for the final time, I want to leave a legacy of ‘the Tigers want more, and every athlete wearing these colors are going to do everything in their power to go get it.’ That comes with hard work in every aspect of our lives. The potential of this program hasn’t been reached yet, and it will continue to grow for years to come.”