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West Ranch's Alexis Clewis: Never enough

Talented Wildcats sophomore always wants to improve

Posted: November 7, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: November 7, 2011 1:55 a.m.

West Ranch High sophomore Alexis Clewis is a natural athlete with a powerful swing, and she’s become a force at outside hitter for the Wildcats. What’s more, Clewis is always striving to improve.

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It really began to sink in for Nate Sparks about a week ago.

West Ranch girls volleyball was at the Redondo Power Classic Tournament in Redondo Beach.

On the heels of a 2-1 win over Oxnard High, Sparks, West Ranch’s head coach, was approached by Oxnard’s coach.

“He came up to me and said, ‘Whoever that No. 28 is, she’s going to be good,’” Sparks recalls.

It wasn’t the first compliment Sparks had received about his sophomore outside hitter Alexis Clewis, and it likely won’t be the last.

Her athleticism and height mixed in with a powerful swing has earned her a spot on the varsity team, where she’s already playing at an upperclassmen level.

Aside from her obvious physical abilities, what sets Clewis apart from many of her peers is something that arguably can’t be coached.

No matter how much buttering up or how many pats on the back she gets, it’s never quite good enough for Clewis, who’s always looking for ways to improve.

“She wants to beat you,” says her father, Troy. “Lexi is just a competitive little girl. That’s just her personality and that’s what we’ve instilled in her and I continue to see it manifest itself.”

And it doesn’t just apply to volleyball.

Troy remembers his daughter showing the same kind of fierce desire when she was 6 years old playing chess, and again when she took up soccer, softball and basketball a few years later.

Athletics have always been big in the Clewis household thanks it large part to Troy’s background as a cornerback for the University of New Mexico’s football team.

In 1989, he nearly made the roster for the New England Patriots, but a shoulder injury held him back.

He’s taken that lesson to heart. He reminds Alexis that no matter how gifted she is, it can all be taken away in a flash.

“He told me that if I really want to go somewhere that I have to work hard and be the best that I can be to get there,” Alexis says of her father.

So far, that hasn’t been a problem.

“She’s more focused and more athletic than I was when I was 16 years old, and that amazed me,” Troy says.

Gerrit Maxwell, who coaches at Legacy Volleyball Club and gives private lessons to Alexis, has also taken notice of Alexis’ unusually fast development.

Maxwell was the one who first convinced her to start playing when she was in eighth grade.

“A lot of people throw this term out there, ‘workhorse,’” Maxwell says, “but it’s one of those things where when we work on passing and hitting, she never gets tired.”

Combine the work ethic with a 5-foot-10-inch frame, a 9-foot-9 vertical leap and her quick absorption of the game, and Alexis could be going places.

Don’t tell her that though. She’ll probably react how she usually does to compliments.

“She likes to play the humble card,” Maxwell says. “It’s genuine though. It’s totally genuine.”

That’s another lesson she learned from her dad — humility.

Troy has always been the type to show up to nearly all of his daughter’s matches in full support, but he constantly reminds her to stay level-headed and never take her abilities for granted.

Her father’s advice may be the thing that that keeps her grounded.

Then again, it could just run in the family.

“I think it’s my competitiveness,” Alexis says. “I want to win so bad and I want to go far and I want to do well, so I think it keeps me determined.”

Either way, her skills are starting to show up on the stat sheet.

She’s third on the team with 184 kills and her .471 hitting percentage is highest among starting outside hitters on West Ranch, which finished third in the Foothill League this year and begins play in the CIF-Southern Section Division IA playoffs this week.

Earlier in the year, she earned a spot on a USA Volleyball High Performance team, which competes against elite competition from around the country in her age group. 

Perhaps that’s why Sparks keeps getting approached by parents and spectators with questions like, “She’s only a sophomore?”

“It says a lot for the kid when opposing teams’ parents come up and say how good of a player she is,” Sparks says.
And the frightening part for the rest of the league is her coaches believe she’s far from her potential.

“I still think that she’s not fully aware of what she’s capable of, and I think that’s a little bit of a blessing right now,” Maxwell says.

As for addressing the comments of Oxnard’s coach: Yes, No. 28 has a good chance at becoming pretty good.

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