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NEW MARKET — In the sports world, it is very difficult to repeat, no matter if it is a team effort or as a player.
Lexi Nelson made it look easy as she repeats as the Journal Review Volleyball Player of the Year.
The Southmont standout broke every school hitting record as she helped lead the Mounties to a 24-11 record and an appearance in the regional finals of the state tournament.
Her numbers stand close to or at the top of county charts also, not just for this season, but for her career as well.
But looking easy from afar is very different from being easy on the road to a great high school career and an outstanding senior season.
As Nelson now prepares to play college volleyball at Urbana University, a Division II school in Ohio, a look back at this season shows what kind of work is needed to play at this high level.
That work ran all year, starting with lessons and expanding to club ball in the off season.
“Playing club volleyball really taught me to find the inner strength within myself,” Nelson said. “Ever since I found that, I could help other teammates grow within themselves as a player. Not only do they get better, they make me better too.”
Working with players who were all looking to play college volleyball, Nelson’s game raised, and last year’s POY stepped up to the next level.
“It is such an honor for Lexi to be chosen two years in a row as Player of the Year,” Southmont coach Lauran Nichols said. “It speaks so much to her work ethic and determination to be the best she can be. She played on the 18-1 (club) team this past year and I think that did great things for her play. It’s tough to play up against girls who are older than you, committed to play competitively in college, be sometimes taller and stronger. That made Lexi work harder to become a more skilled player.”
The numbers tell a piece of the story, and Nelson’s name will be on the charts for a long time.
She had 630 kills this season, which was third-most in the state of Indiana, and when she finished her season, was 22nd nationally. Her 33 kills in the first game of the regional got her named the state Player of the Week by MaxPreps.
Those 630 kills are the second-most ever by a player in Montgomery County, and her 1,433 career kills is the new top number.
Those numbers helped the Mounties to their first sectional title since 1993.
From 98 kills as a freshman to 630 as a senior, the hard work paid off, and helped make Nelson a better teammate and a leader.
“Playing Southmont volleyball was truly amazing,” she said. “I first started out as the young little freshman who worked her way up. I was given a large role, which taught me how to gain confidence. My sophomore year started the off-season training for club ball that really brought my play to life. Into my junior year, and as my skill set was growing, I truly realized that it takes time and a lot of dedication to get to your goals. I have learned so many valuable lessons playing with South and I also have so many memories that I will cherish forever.”
Nichols, herself a college volleyball player at IUPUI after a stellar career at North Montgomery, saw her relationship with her star player grow and change as the four years developed.
“Lexi is such a special player,” Nichols said. “We’ve grown really close. She is my first player to go play college ball and is one of the players that have transformed Southmont volleyball. She deserves so much credit for the work and leadership she has provided. Her offseason work ethic came with her to the team throughout the season. She was always asking for advice about what could make her better. She pushed her teammates to be better and pushed herself even harder which was a big role she stepped into this senior season. She also had to become that vocal and commanding leader. She is one of the most coachable players I have ever worked with. She led by example and her teammates always looked to her when we were struggling, but she was always ready to give credit to her teammates.”
Nelson was also quick to give credit to family, in addition to coaches and teammates.
“My parents (Matt and Kathleen) were always there to support me,” she said, noting a lot of trips to Indy for offseason workouts and club matches. “They encouraged me to keep getting better and they were always behind me.”
She also had extended family cheering her on.
“I just want to give a lot of love to my grandparents and great-grandparents who went to almost every game,” she said. “They were there to see me at my best and my worst, but they always supported me. (Great grandparents) Dave and Linda Myers are in their 90’s and I am so thankful that they were able to see so many of my games. One of my favorite memories will be seeing great-grandpa Dave’s face light up when we won the sectional championship. He was so excited for that moment because he always believed in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself.”
The work paid off, and last year’s Player of the Year gets a repeat.
“I’m glad I could represent my team,” Nelson said. “This was South’s year to shine and I’m glad I was part of it. I’m thankful for the award and it means a lot to me, but it is another part of our team success.”
The message from the Player of the Year to the next generation was simple.
“You have to start off with the mindset to succeed,” she said. “Then, push yourself. It’s okay to mess up, because it makes you better.”
In the case of this player, the mindset was there, the push was there, the coaching and the support from coaches, teammates and family was there.
There weren’t many mess-ups along the way, as the record book shows.
It really wasn’t that hard to repeat.
2019 Journal Revew All-Area Volleyball Team
Lexi Nelson — Southmont
Sidney Veatch — Southmont
Kaley Remley — Southmont
Natalie Manion — Southmont
Macy Bruton — Crawfordsville
Abby Bannon — Crawfordsville
Reagan Oswalt – Fountain Central