Prep Volleyball Preview: Scott is something special
As a fifth-grader, Lexi Scott didn’t know a volleyball from a softball. She didn’t know anything about the game and had no interest in learning until a classmate asked if she and some other Central Minnesota Christian School girls wanted to form a Junior Olympic team to play in Willmar.
“(Willmar setter) Riley Grussing was a classmate of mine,” said Scott, “and one day she came to school and asked some of us, ‘Do you want to play volleyball?’ We were like, ‘Sure!’ I had no idea what a volleyball was.”
CMCS opponents, who for the last three years have watched helplessly as Scott’s powerful kills thundered off the court at their shoe tops, probably wish now that Grussing would have missed school that day and that this whole volleyball thing for Scott would have faded quietly away.Seven years later, Scott has become the gold standard by which most area volleyball players are measured. Next season, she will being play in one of NCAA Division II’s premier volleyball conferences and she’s one of about a dozen candidates for Minnesota’s 2014 Ms. Volleyball honor.CMCS head coach Terrin DeBoer told her younger players to enjoy this season and soak up what they could.“I told a lot of our freshmen and sophomores this season, ‘You’re probably not ever again going to get a chance to play with a player like Lexi,’ “ DeBoer said. “I mean, they just don’t come around very often.’ “Scott enters her senior season with the Bluejays as the Tribune-area’s top player and one of the top players in Class A after an All-State Honorable Mention in 2013.Barring injury, the 5-foot-10 senior will join the 1,000 career-kills club and she’ll also have an outside shot at 350 career ace blocks.Scott had 448 kills last season (with a .382 kill percentage) and 907 career spikes. She also had 102 ace blocks a year ago and enters this season with 243 for her career.But Scott isn’t just a front-row terror any more, rounding last season into an all-court star.For the first time last season, Scott played all six rotations. She led the team by collecting 349 of her career 454 digs, and she was among the team’s leaders in serve receptions.“She really is a natural volleyball player,” DeBoer said. “Just to start doing that, without any experience, really set her apart. Obviously, you can’t shy away from the fact that, offensively, she is extremely dominant. She hits the ball hard and it’s really impressive, but she’s got a great all-around game. She’s really good at everything and that’s pretty special.”Scott isn’t sure where her athletic ability comes from but assumes it must be from her biological father, Geoffrey Scott, who was a letterwinner and second-leading scorer for the Southwest Minnesota State basketball team in 1995-96.“My mom (Wendy Swart) is not athletic at all,” she said with a laugh.Not long after starting in the fifth grade, Scott and her teammates realized they were pretty good, thanks in large part to the coaching of Riley Grussing’s mom, Traci Grussing, who was CMCS’ head varsity coach and now is Willmar High School’s head coach.It didn’t come easily, though, Traci Grussing said.Scott was fast and could jump like nothing else. But, like most fifth-graders, she was uncoordinated and the game was still new to her.“One of our first games, the serve came to Lexi,” Traci Grussing said with a laugh. “She kind of panicked and just caught the ball. And then she started crying.”A year later, however, and “she looked really good,” Grussing said.“After I picked it up, it came naturally, with good coaching, of course,” Scott said. “I liked the competitiveness, how you all have to work together, how intense the game can be and how much momentum plays into how the games will go. I’m a competitive person and I like how the chemistry builds as a team. I like that kind of thing: Always being intense, always being competitive and working together.”The CMCS coaching staff quickly recognized Scott’s potential and, after a growth spurt of a couple of inches, moved her from outside hitter to the middle and from the junior high team up to junior varsity. She got some varsity playing time as an eighth-grader.“That’s when I thought, ‘OK, I’m an eighth-grader and I must be doing pretty well if I’m up here,” Scott said.“I’m not surprised at all at what she’s become,” said Traci Grussing, who left CMCS after Scott’s eighth-grade year. “She developed her coordination and she was pretty mature. It helped that our JV squad was young so she wasn’t the only one. She starter practicing with the varsity at the end of the season and she held her own. By then, she was blocking like crazy and jumping really well. She was a natural.”With Scott as their anchor, the Bluejays have averaged 23 wins per season, and Scott became a highly regarded college recruit as coaches scouted her in prep and Junior Olympic matches.Earlier this spring, she committed to play next season at the University of Sioux Falls, which plays in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference.The NSIC is home to seven-time Division II national champion Concordia-St. Paul, the 2014 preseason No. 1. Five NSIC schools are ranked in Division II’s top 25, including No. 3 University of Minnesota Duluth, No. 7 Southwest Minnesota State, No. 20 Wayne State and No 21 Northern State.“It felt like home at Sioux Falls,” she said. “It’s the right place, I guess.”But even with her playing future mapped out, Scott said there’s no lack of motivation for her senior season.First, there’s the Minneota Situation. As good as the Bluejays have been during Scott’s prep career, the Vikings have been better, at least on the scoreboard.In the last three years, one-third of the Bluejays’ losses have come against Minneota, which is 8-0 against CMCS and has surrendered just two sets in those matches. In each of the last three years, the Vikings have ended the Bluejays’ season in the Section 3A playoffs.Scott would like a better memory to take into the next stage of her volleyball career, but the Bluejays will need to clear a maddening mental hurdle to make it happen, she said.“Minneota is the team to beat,” she said. “They’re always a very good team and we know we have to play our best and play our hardest against them. But we never seem to do that against them.“I think we need to start playing the player and not the jersey,” Scott said. “I think just seeing the name ‘Minneota’ freaks us out every time we play them. We have a lot of good, talented people and I feel like our teams match up really well. We just need to play them like any other good team.”But Scott’s primary motivation to maintain, or even exceed, her level of play this year can be found in her own locker room.Scott teams again with talented senior setter Nicole Brouwer, who had an outstanding, 1,000-plus set season in 2013 that landed her on the Tribune’s eight-player All-Area first team with Scott.Senior middle hitter Erin Orred also is back, along with middle hitter Natalie Brouwer, Nicole’s twin sister, and senior defensive specialist Christine Mikelson.But for upper classmen, that’s it. The Bluejays have no juniors on their roster. Scott and the other seniors are intent on making it part of their legacy to bridge that gap in the program, Scott said.“I want to be a good leader for the younger girls,” Scott said. “They’re not going to have anyone to look up to next year because it’s just going to be them. Even though I’ve already committed (to a college) I will make sure that I don’t just put it in cruise control and that I still play full speed and all-out. I still have to play for my teammates and not just the betterment of myself.”That’s the attitude expected from a kid who took up the sport on a lark.“Lexi is the kind of player who never wants to make a mistake because she doesn’t want to let her team down,” DeBoer said. “She would never be one to think she’s better than anyone else when, every gym I walk into with her, all any one can talk to me about it Lexi. She’s something special.”