Four days before Christmas 2011, Tiana Dockery received a call that would change her life forever.
One of her best friends, Fatima Barrie, was stabbed to death.
Dockery and Barrie were teammates on their high school track team. Dockery, then a freshman, and Barrie, a senior, were on the same 4-x-400 and 4-x-200 meter relays.
“It hit me really hard,” Dockery said with tears in her eyes. “She was the one person I wanted to do well for. “
Nearly four years later, Dockery strives to do her best to memorialize her best friend. She’s on track to be the first Kansas volleyball player to play in four-straight NCAA tournaments, and coach Ray Bechard has made sure she’s well aware.
“Coach B has made it very right there in my face,” Dockery said of how often her appearance in the tournament comes up in conversations. “I think it’s awesome. Just being here makes you feel like you can do anything.”
Dockery never dreamed of being at Kansas. Before Bechard started recruiting her, she knew nothing about Kansas — not even its storied basketball success. But since her arrival, she’s been all in, and it’s all because of Barrie.
“Everything is more to me than just playing,” Dockery said. “It’s a passion from my heart.
She added: "Thinking of Fatima, watching her run, she [dominated] every race. It didn’t matter what it was, every practice, every race, everything. Her mindset is so wonderful. I wanted to do that. I felt like I could do that.”
Dockery takes her mind off of her intense schedule by hanging out with fellow volleyball player Janae Hall. Dockery said Hall keeps her in the pop culture loop by taking her to movies and concerts. Recently, the two went to see "Straight Outta Compton."
She said it was one of her favorite movies.
Straight outta Richmond, Texas, Dockery broke onto the KU scene in 2012. As a freshman, she started in 20 matches and saw time in all but two. Halfway through the season, she was tabbed as Big 12 Rookie of the Week.
She played in 94 sets and had 132 kills, 4 aces, 177 digs and 56 total blocks. It came as no surprise when she was named to the 2012 All-Big 12 Freshman Team.
That 2012 season was Kansas’ first appearance in the NCAA tournament since 2005. Dockery appeared in three of the four sets in Kansas’ loss against Wichita State. Statistics from the first round against Cleveland State were unavailable.
Her momentum from her freshman season carried into her sophomore campaign. Dockery hammered down 37 kills during the Inntowner Invitational against Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Bowling Green, and was named to the Inntowner Invitational All-Tournament Team. Shortly after, she was named Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week after she had 14 kills against Georgia during the Kansas Invitational.
That season, Dockery amassed 196 kills, 81 digs and 40 total blocks, including 18 kills, 5 digs and 2 blocks in Kansas’ first ever run to the Sweet 16.
“It was a great opportunity for us,” Dockery said, looking back. “We were so determined to get there. When we did, it was a shock.”
Last season, Dockery saw game time in every match and started in 21 of them. During her junior campaign, Dockery was awarded with another Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week award for her individual performance against Texas Tech. In those four sets, she amassed 20 kills and 13 digs.
During that season, Dockery compiled a stat ledger of 229 kills, 159 digs and 63 total blocks in total, which boosted her to earn the All-Big 12 Honorable Mention accolade.
Dockery isn’t exactly ready to start her final season, she said, but she hasn’t given it much thought either.
“Everyone has four years, some have five,” Dockery said. “It’s kind of exciting. I haven’t thought about it that much, because we still have an entire season to worry about. Senior night is when it will really hit everyone.”
Dockery tries not to feel old, even though there is a moderate age gap between her and the majority of the team. Before senior transfers Anna Church and Ashlyn Driskill came in, there were four juniors on the squad, the rest of which were sophomores.
Sometimes though, she says she feels like a mother figure — similar to how Barrie was to her — especially when she watches the younger players excel.
Dockery, along with Kelsie Payne and Ainise Havili, were invited to train with the Collegiate National Team this summer. Dockery said she watched both Payne and Havili when she had some down time.
“[Seeing them play] was just awesome,” she said. “They’re so much younger and are so talented. Watching them was definitely a parent moment.”
Even though Dockery has one more season left, she’s already thinking about her future.
After her playing days are over, she wants to coach, and she believes she has what it takes to coach at the collegiate level.
“I was between if I wanted to be a college coach or not,” Dockery said. “I think that I can be. It’s not too late to think about it now.”
In retrospect, Dockery feels accomplished knowing how far she’s come with volleyball and in her everyday life.
“I have tried to take whatever Fatima taught me and instill it in myself and put that out to everyone else,” Dockery said. “She’s had a big impact on my life, she’s the motivation behind it all.”
— Edited by Emma LeGault