Oct. 31, 2010
By Jon Cooper
It wasn’t difficult to picture Alexis Woodson as a great player for Georgia Tech.
She got plenty of practice visualizing it before she even got to the collegiate level.
“I’ve been coming to Georgia Tech Volleyball matches since I was a sophomore in high school,” said the former star at Woodward Academy. “They’ve always been really fun to watch. That’s the reason why when I left Indiana I knew where I wanted to go. I wanted to go to Georgia Tech. I wanted to be a Yellow Jacket.”
The desire to don the white and gold was easy to spot, especially by those already donning it. They were already knew that face in the crowd.
“She came to all our home matches last year. I hadn’t seen her in a year or two, so I started talking to her again and maintaining that relationship,” said senior setter Mary Ashley Tippins, who remembered Woodson from her senior season in high school (Woodson was a freshman). “It’s kind of like she’s been here since last year because she was here all the time.”
“When she transferred in the fall, she was taking courses somewhere else and was coming to every home match for us,” added Head Coach Tonya Johnson. “She had a lot of visualization because she was here for a lot of home matches. She’s a neat kid. She works hard, she has a great personality and the kids love her. I just love having her as a part of the team.”
“Lexie” has given Johnson and her teammates plenty to love.
The sophomore middle blocker has been dynamic, ranking third on the team in total blocks (87) and blocks per set (.95). She’s especially turned it on in ACC play as over the last 10 ACC matches, Woodson has 64 kills and 49 blocks.
In the split at Wake Forest (3-0) and Duke (0-3) over the weekend, Lexie recorded 15 kills and 6 blocks and her .615 hitting percentage Saturday night against Duke led the team.
This surge was simply a matter of shaking off the rust following her transfer to Tech after her freshman year at Indiana in 2008, where she had 109 kills, 90 blocks, and .80 blocks per set (second on the team).
“I feel like that I had to get my court awareness back. I knew that my skills had improved so I had to combine it all together as one,” she said. “It finally clicked once we were away for those two weeks in Virginia. From then until now, I feel like it’s gotten better and better. I’m improving and improving, which is the key for this team.”
She’s playing to her strength and growing in confidence with every match.
“I feel like because I am an under-sized middle that my speed will come into play,” she said. “That’s how I’ve succeeded playing volleyball, with my speed. I know I’m not the tallest middle (she stands 6-1) so I know I have to be quick and unstoppable. That’s my main goal, to be untouchable and unstoppable.”
It’s no coincidence that Woodson’s improvement came as the team was forging a seven-match winning streak, and a five-match road winning streak (the latter was halted Saturday night at Duke).
Over that time, Lexie was in the middle of everything on both offense and defense. During the seven-match streak she recorded 46 kills (including a career-high 10 at Miami on Oct. 8) and 37 blocks, including a career-high nine on Oct. 15 against North Carolina. That was part of a 17-blocks, 10-kills weekend at O’Keefe against Carolina and N.C. State.
Her offensive contribution has been especially welcome.
“I know that her on the wave when she runs behind me, that’s a major part of our offense and she’s definitely becoming a factor that I can go to,” said Tippins. “That’s key for me to use my middles in the beginning of the game so that opens up my outside hitters, my pin hitters, for later on in the game. If my middles are on then everything will be good because then all my other hitters will have good places to hit.”
“She’s definitely stepped up for us,” agreed senior LIbero Jordan McCullers. “We really needed to get our middles involved to be able to run our pins. Now that we have the middles that are such a factor in there, our blocks are getting frozen on the other side so Mash is able to spread the offense out completely. So Lexie being able to run slides behind Mash and throwing off the blockers, that’s exactly what we needed.”
Don’t expect Woodson to stop now. With seven matches remaining in the season, Georgia Tech is sitting in third place in the ACC, three games back of first-place Duke (11-2) and 2 1/2 games behind North Carolina (10-2). As important, the Yellow Jackets hold a slim 1/2-game lead over Florida State, and Maryland (both 7-5) and a one-game lead over Miami and Wake Forest (7-6). They can create some separation this weekend, as Florida State and Miami come to O’Keefe on Friday and Saturday.
Woodson sees good things ahead as Tech heads down the stretch.
“Everybody knows everybody. We know what they like to run, what everybody’s capable of doing,” she said. “Now it’s just a matter of what team’s going to finish and what team’s going to compete at the highest level.
“We’re starting to grow together, compete together and really use our capabilities to take it to all the teams in the ACC,” she added. “I think we can finish strong down the road.”
Anyone want to question Woodson and her powers of visualization?