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Standing 5-foot-5, Blaine volleyball player Alex Brown looks up at taller teammates. When it comes to experience, however, Brown stands alone.
The only senior with four years of varsity experience on her résumé, Brown fulfills her dual roles as the Bengals' libero and emotional leader.
"She's leads us in digs and she is our best passer," coach Celeste Gorman said. "She's one of our captains and she's very caring when it comes to her teammates."
Brown and the third-ranked Bengals raced to a 15-1 start this season, which included victories against top-10 opponents in Minnetonka and Eden Prairie.
She spoke with Star Tribune reporter David La Vaque about her team's impressive start this season and lessons learned in defeat and victory at recent tournaments.
Q How are you feeling about starting this week 15-1? Are you able to appreciate it or do you not have that luxury because you've been at or near this level for several seasons and it's sort of expected?
A We're conscious of our record but records and ranking don't really mean as much to us. We base it on being a team. We're trying to play together as a team, get to know each other and spend time as a second family.
Q We're a solid month into the season. The record says you're doing fine but are you seeing the little things you need to see in terms of improvement?
A Yes, on and off the court we've gotten so much closer. We play so well together and we're getting better at telling each other what we need to work on -- that constructive criticism. But we're also encouraging and helping each other through.
Q You lost 2-0 to Wayzata at the Eagle Invitational tournament but then you came right back and beat higher-ranked Eden Prairie a few hours later. Do you walk out of there feeling good about bouncing back?
A Yes, definitely. Beating Eden Prairie was great because we were down about losing to Wayzata. But we came back and showed the strength to play together and push the past away.
Q Has the libero role always been something you played in volleyball or were you switched to that position somewhere along the way?
A When I first started volleyball I was a setter. My freshman year, my coaches told me that I should become a libero because I was good at defense and also I was short [laughs]. My major role on the court is definitely leadership. I have to be a big voice back there, getting everyone going by talking and getting them into their game.
Q As the only senior with four years of varsity experience, what do you draw on to help your team?
A I guess I just let everyone else in on what I've learned. And I'll say this like, "Come on, girls, let's do this. We're a team, let's come together."
Q You won the Blaine Tournament last weekend but coach Gorman said you learned something from struggling against Roseville in the title match. What happened?
A In our first game, we were pretty sleepy on the court. We didn't think that Roseville was that good of competition. That was the vibe. But in the middle of the first game we realized that they weren't going to give it to us. We had to fight back.
David La Vaque • 612-673-7574