Alexis Hart grew up in a basketball family in Missouri, but a passion for volleyball and the influence of her late grandfather ultimately led to her becoming a four-year starter at the University of Minnesota.
Growing up, Hart was a multi-sport athlete. Her athletic career began at the age of five, when she joined a summer track league and started training with her siblings and aunt. She would eventually go on to compete in track, volleyball and basketball simultaneously in high school. She continued in volleyball and track through senior year, sticking with volleyball over basketball because of her passion for the game and the strong team element of the sport.
“My mom was like, ‘You have to play basketball, or I guess you can play volleyball.’ I chose volleyball over basketball, which she wasn’t too happy about,” Hart said. “I kind of just sparked an interest, I guess. I also loved track, but I saw more opportunities in volleyball, so I went with volleyball, and I just fell in love with it.”
There were certainly opportunities for Hart in volleyball, including one at the University. Hart’s grandfather played an important part in her life, and she wanted to make the decision on where to play with his guidance. He was a father figure for Hart, and she wanted to play at a school he loved. That school happened to be Minnesota. It wasn’t long before Hart began to love the University as well.
“He really loved this school. Once I got to talk to him, he just expressed his feelings on how much he loved it here,” she said. “Then I saw the coaches and the culture and the girls. I was like, ‘Yes, I like it too.’ We kind of agreed, and then I just fell in love with the school.”
The decision has paid dividends for Hart. She won American Volleyball Coaches Association North Region Freshman of the Year and has earned two All Big-Ten selections. This season, Hart is second on the team in kills and kills per set, and her play has only ramped up over the Gophers last four matches. In that span, she has recorded 64 kills, with no less than 10 in each match, and the Gophers have gone 4-0, including two five-set wins over Michigan and Ohio State.
“They’re all carrying a nice load for us. When one of them is dominant, as [Hart]’s been the last few matches, that helps us a lot,” said head coach Hugh McCutcheon.
Hart’s love and passion for the game of volleyball is evident, and she hopes to continue her volleyball career after graduation. She can’t begin that process until after the season, and it will be a busy couple months before then. The No. 6 ranked Gophers have eight more conference games and the postseason on the horizon, and Hart will also graduate at the end of the semester with a degree in business marketing education. Her graduation marks the first of the grandchildren in her family, and she’s happy she can make her family proud with her accomplishment.
"Just knowing that I can get my degree and it puts a smile on my family’s face makes us even closer,” she said.
The four years have flown by for Hart. She wants to finish her senior year strong, both academically and athletically, and she has one final goal as the semester approaches a close.
"I think overall, I'm just trying to be the best person I can be in these last few months that I have here," she said.