Asked what distinguished Alexa Filley from most setters, Assumption High School volleyball coach Ron Kordes had four years’ worth of memories to tell the story.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’m thinking, ‘That pass is going to be overpassed’ or whatever, and the next thing I know, here comes Filley off the ground, twisted sideways, she stays out of the net and throws a ball up that we can swing on and score,” Kordes said. “That’s what sets her apart from most: her athleticism and her foot speed.”
And now Filley has something to set her apart from every other high school player in the nation.
During a ceremony at Assumption on Thursday, she received the Gatorade National Player of the Year award. She already had been named the school’s 14th winner of the Gatorade state honor since 1997, and now she’s the first Kentucky player to receive the national award.
Filley found out while giving a speech during her Thursday morning theology class.
“I was so surprised and shocked,” she said. “I saw this big trophy and saw my family. It was amazing.”
The 5-foot-9 senior posted 1,248 assists, 334 digs, 102 kills, 58 blocks and 41 service aces as Assumption finished 37-6 and won its fourth straight state championship in November. She has signed with Auburn.
The Gatorade award recognizes athletic excellence, academic achievement and exemplary character on and off the court. Filley has a 3.91 GPA, volunteers with the Special Olympics, donates time to feeding the hungry and assists in a second-grade classroom.
“When you put those three things in line — the athletics, academics and character — she should have been considered for it,” Kordes said. “When they called me about it … I said, ‘If you decide on her, she’d be an outstanding candidate.’ She rates very high in all three of those areas.”
Among those attending Thursday’s ceremony was April Ross, who teamed with Jennifer Kessy to win the silver medal in beach volleyball in the 2012 London Olympics. Ross won the Gatorade National Player of the Year award in 2000 while at Newport Harbor High School in Newport Beach, Calif.
Ross said Filley is her favorite player she’s met to win the award.
“It’s amazing to me that she’s a full-time setter and she’s 5-9,” Ross said. “I work with a lot of sand volleyball athletes, and a lot of them get discouraged if they’re not 6 feet tall. … It’s so cool to be like, ‘Look at her. She’s 5-9 … and she’s a national volleyball winner.’ “
Perhaps the biggest perk for Filley will be a trip to the ESPY Awards this summer in Los Angeles, where the Gatorade National Player of the Year winners in 12 sports will be honored.
When Gatorade officials announced entertainer Justin Timberlake also is expected to attend the event, Filley’s classmates at Assumption gave their biggest cheer of the ceremony.
“I’ve never been to California and always wanted to go,” she said. “I actually joked with Ron, ‘Yeah, if I go to the ESPYs, I’ll take you.’ … I’m so excited.”