Rookie Hart poised to have big season

The freshman is currently second on the team in kills.

First year outside hitter Alexis Hart practices in the Sports Pavillon with her team on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016.

Meagan Lynch

First year outside hitter Alexis Hart practices in the Sports Pavillon with her team on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016.

Tommy Sletten

Freshman outside hitter Alexis Hart was a talented three-sport high school athlete, and those skills have served her well on the volleyball court in her first season for Minnesota.

Hart was integral in two victories over the weekend in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge over Louisville and No. 8 North Carolina, leading the Gophers with 30 kills.

“She’s been doing really well,” said head coach Hugh McCutcheon. “Obviously, at the net she’s been killing the ball and taking a good share of the responsibility of the set-receive, and she’s holding up as a blocker, server and defender as well. I’m very happy with the start.”

Hart excelled in basketball, track and field and volleyball in her career at Truman High School in Independence, Missouri.

Hart was a state champion in the long jump as a sophomore and held the school record in both the long jump and triple jump.

She also played basketball in high school and put up 116 points in her sophomore campaign.

Hart shined the most on the volleyball court. She was named an Under Armour First Team All-American by the American Volleyball Coaches Association and had 1,284 kills total in her high school career.

Hart also came from an athletic background. Her mother, Knea Robinson-Hart, was a basketball player for Oklahoma. The bond between the two athletes has helped Hart adjust to her first year as a student-athlete.

“After games and practice, I can call my mom and talk to her, and she understands what it means to be a college athlete,” Hart said. “She’s like my big support, but she understands if I have things going on.”

While such a huge step from the high school level to the college level can rattle some, Hart has shown maturity and composure early on. The outside hitter is second in kills for the Gophers behind senior outside hitter Sarah Wilhite. She’s played in every set so far this season and has been named Big Ten Freshman of the Week two weeks in a row.

Wilhite, who plays the same position as Hart, said she sees a lot of potential in her teammate already.

“I feel like my freshman year I felt more pressure that wasn’t really there,” she said. “I just put [it] on myself, and I don’t see that a lot in Lexi, which makes me really excited for her that she doesn’t have to push through that at all.”

Hart’s offensive output has been helpful for the Gophers to make up for the loss of former Big Ten Player of the Year and outside hitter Daly Santana, who recently played for Puerto Rico in the Summer Olympics.

Early success is nothing new for Minnesota. McCutcheon said that has been evident in players like Hart and sophomore setter Samantha Seliger-Swenson, who started in every match as setter in her freshman season.

Hart differs from some of her teammates in that less than half of the squad is from outside of Minnesota, but she said she’s taking the adjustment well and gets by with a solid support system in her hometown.

“Back at home, a lot of my friends, they understand where I come from,” Hart said. “So they’re really supportive. All my family and friends say that if I keep working hard, it will all pay off.”