Hometown hero key asset for Lions volleyball team

Sophomore Lexie Bradley goes up to attempt a kill for the Lions. The UNA Volleyball team won in three straight sets to defeat Shorter University Sept. 18.

There is no place like home.

For sophomore volleyball player Lexie Bradley, the cliché is especially true. The 5’11” outside hitter for UNA was a standout at Wilson High School in Florence, where her mother — and former Lions volleyball player — Sandy Bradley coached her.

The family connection to UNA was a big influence in Bradley’s decision to sign with her hometown team.

“I feel like if I didn’t grow up in this town and my mom didn’t play here, I wouldn’t have as much of a connection to (UNA),” Bradley said. “I grew up coming to UNA’s (volleyball) camps, so I’ve always felt like this was the place. Plus, I have a lot of family that lives here, so I love that they get to come support me and watch me every game.”

As a freshman, Bradley started in 16 matches for the Lions and averaged 2.05 kills per set. In her second season, Bradley is second on the team in kills per set and leads the team in service aces, making her a mainstay in the lineup.

“I worked really hard in the offseason and all of this summer, so honestly I expect more of myself, even more than what my stats show,” Bradley said. “Last year, I was coming into the season off knee surgery. I was struggling with it, but now that I’m 100 percent healthy, I feel like I’m a completely different player than I was last year.”

UNA head coach Stephanie Radecki said the improvement in Bradley’s game is apparent.

“Lexie has made huge strides toward becoming a very dominating player,” Radecki said. “She’s much stronger than she was last season. As a sophomore, she’s become more effective, she’s more powerful and she is more intelligent.”

On the court and in the locker room, Bradley brings a positive attitude to the team.

“It’s great to have confidence in your teammates,” said fellow outside hitter Natasha Fomina. “Lexie is great to have on the court because we know that we can count on her to make big plays at the right times.

“She has good energy on and off the court. Playing with people that have those qualities is a lot of fun and makes playing together really enjoyable.”

In the classroom, Bradley is focusing on special education and elementary education, areas where she feels she can make a difference after she graduates.

“In the eighth grade, I aided with the preschool,” Bradley said. “Every year after that I always aided in the Pre-K or elementary school. I always gravitated toward the special-ed kids and cliqued with them. It just really made me want to get into that field.”

With over half the season remaining, Bradley’s main focus is on the court, where her team will try to avenge last season’s loss in the GSC championship game.

“I’m really excited for the rest of this season and to see how well we do,” she said. “I definitely want to go back and get that ring after we lost in the (conference) championship last season. It really just eats me alive and it does everyone else on the team.”

Bradley and her team’s next step toward redemption is on the road Oct. 1 against Alabama-Huntsville.