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Published: October 22, 2008 11:12 pm  

HS GIRLS VOLLEYBALL: Raepple’s play moves Grand Island up

By Nate Beutel

GRAND ISLAND — Positioned in the back row as a libero for the past two years, Lexi Raepple always took hitting for granted. Like most, she just thought the harder you hit the ball, the more kills you rack up.

After making the switch to the front row this fall, the Grand Island senior now knows better than to think like that.

“I didn’t realize how much of the mental game was involved with hitting and blocking,” she said. “You really have to look where the defense is playing and not just go up there and hammer it. At first, it was hard to get a grip on it.”

But it was nothing that Raepple couldn’t do. After all, according to coach John Head, she’s always working hard and taking on different challenges. Even as a freshman trying out for the JV, Raepple faced an uphill battle. The first suicide sprint she ran at tryouts saw her take a spill over her own feet.

“Here she is, supposed to be a good athlete and she’s tripping over her own two feet,” Head, then the JV coach, joked. “But she got back up.”

That kind of hustle and resiliency has been Raepple’s trademark throughout her career with the Vikings.

“There is no ball that is out of her reach,” Head said. “Even if its four feet away from her, she’s diving for it and giving up her body.”

Then this past summer in anticipation of her move up to the net, Raepple did extensive work with her club volleyball coach, Brandi Trapasso. Raepple said Trapasso was great with teaching the basics of the middle hitter position.

From there, Raepple said it was just a matter of getting re-acclimated with the setters at GI — something that surprisingly only took a few practices.

“We picked up each other’s habits quickly and even though we had a lot of voids to fill, we played pretty well,” Raepple said.

The Vikings wrapped up their Niagara Frontier League schedule with an 8-6 record, good enough to earn the sixth seed in Class A and a Friday home date with No. 11 Iroquois. And with a potential matchup against an unproven Hutch Tech team possible in the quarterfinals, Raepple is excited for her team’s chances.

“We’re really looking at this optimistically,” she said. “When we play our hardest, we can play with almost anybody.”

And even with one of the team’s starting setters — senior Susan Pioli —out with an illness, Head is confident that the senior leadership of Raepple and the abilities of her and her teammates will shine through during the next week or so.