Badgers’ Mitchell steps into leadership role

first_imgKnown as a fierce competitor on the court with her powerful kills, Mitchell’s (10) athleticism has led in large part to her success on the court. The senior middle blocker currently leads the Badgers with an average of 2.86 kills per set.[/media-credit]The Wisconsin women’s volleyball team is off to a 5-1 start to the young season as the Badgers open their home season Friday with the annual InnTowner Invitational. The Badgers are more experienced this season, thanks to the leadership of senior middle blocker Alexis Mitchell. Mitchell says her individual goals are similar to those of the team.“I want to make it to the (NCAA) tournament,” Mitchell said. “That’s an individual goal and a team goal. Whatever the result is at the end of the year with awards, I’m not really worried about that. I’m more worried about leaving my team with a legacy they can carry on, get more years up on those banners and make it to the tournament consistently.”Mitchell already has a load of accolades accumulated throughout her career. She was honorable mention All-Big Ten in both 2010 and 2011. She was a member of the 2011 Rhode Island Invitational All-Tournament team, the Inntowner Invitational All-Tournament team in 2010 and the 2010 Milwaukee/Marquette Invitational MVP. But it’s Mitchell’s leadership that doesn’t show up in the stat books.“Her attitude is her biggest strength,” sophomore setter Courtney Thomas said of Mitchell. “The happier she is and the more excited she is helps our team so much. It gives us fuel against the other team.”Wisconsin coach Pete Waite says Mitchell’s leadership spills outside of the Field House floor as well.“She’s been a very good leader,” Waite said. “She found ways off the court, even in the summer, to step up by helping organizing the team to get together and get in the weight room. She has been doing this since her freshman year. She’s always been a person who’s been very comfortable speaking in front of the group, and now she’s backing it up with how she conducts herself off the court and on the court in practice.”Mitchell led the Badgers in hitting percentage (.299), blocks per set (1.00) and total blocks (113) in 2011 while also ranking second on the team with 2.26 kills per set. Her .299 hitting percentage – Mitchell’s career best- also ranked her 10th best in all of the Big Ten.As a team, the Badgers showed improvement in 2011, winning eight Big Ten matches – their most since winning 17 in 2007. The growth of players and leadership from seniors such as Mitchell will be crucial if Wisconsin wants to build on last season’s improvement.“The biggest change is maturity and confidence in her own game,” Waite said of changes in Mitchell from last season. “She realizes she has more control over what she’s doing now that she’s learned all the skills that she’s worked so hard on over the last three years.”Mitchell also notices a big jump in her play from last season to this season.“I think I’ve grown in maturity,” Mitchell said. “I’m more of a leader on and off the court than I was last year, and I’ve stepped into that role. Physically, my game has come a long way, and I feel more comfortable and confident in it. Last year, there [were] sometimes when I would doubt myself, but now I know that when I’m on the court I can get the job done.”Mitchell hasn’t disappointed this season either, helping Wisconsin lead the Big Ten in blocks per set this year. Her 1.33 blocks per set currently ranks third in the Big Ten while her 2.86 kills – her .409 kill percentage is a team best – per set is the second best on the team.The Badgers’ star middle blocker will need to continue her strong game, as the Badgers start Big Ten play at the end of the month. The conference is loaded with top teams including Nebraska and Penn State, who are ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively. After upsetting Penn State last year, Mitchell wants teams to respect Wisconsin more than they have in years past.“I want us to be a team that people in the Big Ten want to beat,” Mitchell said. “When we walk into a gym we’re respected, or when they talk about us in the media we’re respected. I don’t want us to be one of the underdogs. I want us to be in the top six [Big Ten] and competing with other teams in the Big Ten.”Waite knows that much of the team’s success depends on Mitchell.“She’s a competitor and has a real fire in her belly. She loves competing at the highest levels and that’s what the rest of the team is able to follow. When she starts getting into her zone, everybody feels they can do anything or beat anybody, and that’s huge for a team. She’s not gonna back down to anyone.”last_img read more