One day after the MSU volleyball team (8-1) dropped its first game of the season against Bowling Green in the Best Western Falcon Plaza Invitational last friday, sophomore middle blocker Alexis Mathews went to breakfast with another player and had a simple message for her — “Get me the ball.”
Mathews’ initiative paid off, as she got off to a quick start against Canisius in the second match of the weekend, helping the team to a 3-0 win. In the third and final game of the tournament, Mathews led the team to another 3-0 win over Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, tallying a career-high 11 kills and .667 hitting percentage.
However, Mathews said she had no intention of personal gain when she made the request.
“I just thought our middles are a big part of our team and can be a dominating force in the Big Ten, so why not get them the ball?” she said laughing.
Her performance led to her second straight all-tournament team honor and earned recognition from her coach and teammates alike.
“Alexis has great physicality, and she can really change the match with that,” head coach Cathy George said. “She’s becoming aggressive and demanding the ball. And being aggressive when she blocks is serving her well, and it’s serving her team well.”
Mathews is playing the role of an unlikely hero for the Spartans. While most collegiate athletes have been playing their respective sports their entire lives, it wasn’t until high school that the 6-foot-3 Mathews realized her potential on the volleyball court. However, that hasn’t slowed her down any.
“This is a kid from (Detroit) Renaissance High School that had no volleyball training, so she’s learning every single day,” George said. “She’s just absorbing as much information as she possibly can.”
As a redshirt freshman last year, Mathews earned some recognition from the Big Ten, being named conference defensive player of the week once and Big Ten Freshman of the Week twice. She also finished fifth in the conference, averaging 1.27 blocks per set.
Statistically, Mathews’ sophomore season has been even more impressive. She has recorded 48 total blocks on the season, which places her first in the Big Ten and second in the nation in blocks per set, with 1.71. She’s also tallied a .438 hitting percentage, which puts her third in the conference.
“She’s a very physical and athletic player for us,” senior Jenilee Rathje said. “Her blocking has been consistent, and her hitting has continued to improve match after match.”
Rathje also said the energy Mathews brings to the court is infectious, and her play elevates that of her teammates.
However, Mathews said she wouldn’t consider herself a team leader just yet.
“My performance isn’t as much of a leadership thing as it is just trying to help my team win,” she said.
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