Alex Kelly isn’t concerned with the exact whereabouts of her various awards. All she knows is that her parents took them back home to Kansas City.
She does know what she wants, though. So does everyone else associated with her and the Lipscomb University volleyball program. Kelly wants to win every time out. No excuses.
“It’s cool to know you have someone who you don’t have to question what she wants,” said teammate Stefine “Jake” Pease, who also played club volleyball with Kelly. “It’s always the same thing.”
That’s why the two-time Atlantic Sun Conference player of the year doesn’t seem to care about the individual honors. There are more important things to focus on, such as last weekend’s Atlantic Sun Conference tournament in Fort Meyers, Fla.
Kelly and her Lady Bisons teammates have gone unbeaten in regular season conference matches over the last two years, tallying a perfect 32-0 record. In 2008, they fell just short of the NCAA Tournament, losing to Belmont in the A-Sun title match. Last year, they earned their invitation when they stormed through the conference tournament before perennial participant California ousted them in the first round.
Much of the team’s recent success can be attributed to Kelly. As she finishes her senior year, she concludes one of the all-time best careers of any Lipscomb athlete.
Since the university joined the NCAA, no other athlete in any sport has won the A-Sun player of the year award more than once, as Kelly has. She also made the all-conference first team three times after being named to the all-freshman team in 2007. On top of that, she entered this fall as a three-time member of the A-Sun all-academic team.
Lightly recruited out of Kansas City, Kelly followed club teammate Pease, the 2010 A-Sun player of the year, to Lipscomb, and this season they were two of the team’s three captains.
“It’s her drive [that sets her apart]; Alex wants to win every point,” coach Brandon Rosenthal said. “She literally goes out and tries to [blank the other team] every time she steps out on the floor.”
Rosenthal tells of a practice one afternoon after a few losses in a row that Kelly walked in and complained to a senior, “I’m not used to losing.”
Quickly, she learned her place, though it didn’t take long for Kelly to redefine that place. She won the first of her player of the year award as a sophomore. It was the first-ever for Lipscomb’s
volleyball program, which as recently as 2003 was ranked 315th out of 330 Division I teams.
“She put up numbers that none of us had ever seen before,” Rosenthal said. “[She] was no fluke.”
Fast forward to the end of last season, when the Lady Bisons finished a program-best No. 36 in the nation, and the progress of the team is evident.
“Not only have I had personal success, but the program has grown,” Kelly said. “Four years ago, people couldn’t even dream of [back-to-back undefeated Atlantic Sun seasons].”
One way or another, this will be Kelly’s final year in a Lady Bisons uniform. After graduation, she plans to play professional volleyball in Europe or go to graduate school.
If she has it her way, her career will end where it began: Kansas City, site of this year’s volleyball Final Four.
Best-case scenario, Kelly will have the opportunity to find her awards and add a few more. The most coveted of those is the one she doesn’t currently have: the national championship.