Plenty of little girls chase balloons around. But probably not with the same purpose Alexis Gonzalez did.
“I’ve heard the stories about AAU volleyball trips when Lexie was 3 or 4,” St. Michael coach Rob Smith said. “Maria (Gonzalez’s mother) was coaching. When they got to the hotel afterwards, there was a game. Lexie wasn’t supposed to let the balloon hit the ground.”
As she approaches her senior year at St. Michael, not letting a ball hit the ground or letting her teammates down is the objective for Gonzalez. The Warriors travel to Episcopal for their final scrimmage Thursday as they prepare to host University High for a season opener Tuesday.
Gonzalez is third-generation Baton Rouge high school volleyball. Her mother played at McKinley and Southeastern Louisiana before becoming a coach at St. Michael and Broadmoor. Her grandfather, Nelson Malpica, is the volleyball coach at nearby Woodlawn, where her mother is an assistant coach.
“I was in the gym with my mom from the time I was 2. I would go to all her club tournaments and her games and practices. I was a gym rat,” Gonzalez said. “By the time I was 5, I would get into the drills with the high school players. I wanted to scrimmage with them.”
Gonzalez will be a four-year starter. She played libero for the Warriors as a freshman and sophomore. SMHS was the Division III runners-up in 2017 and a semifinalist in 2018.
But things changed as she grew. At 5-foot-8, Gonzales is one of the Warriors' tallest players and now plays outside hitter. She earned All-Metro honors a year ago with 221 kills and 382 digs. Gonzalez also holds the school record for digs.
During Wednesday’s practice, Gonzalez was in control, directing teammates, picking up digs on defense and sending kills over the next during a light scrimmage.
“I’ll do whatever I need to do for the team,” Gonzalez said. “I did not play well at all in the scrimmage (Tuesday), which is frustrating. I want to make my senior the best year.
“I really do like our team. We have all but one starter back. Because of COVID, we didn’t get to do a lot since March. No club or summer league. So, we're working through all that.”
Gonzalez spent most of the summer honing her golf skills. Her best summer score was a 76. Gonzalez’s best nine-hole score for St. Michael before the spring pandemic shutdown was a 36.
Smith, a Woodlawn graduate, attended SLU with Gonzalez’s mother and has coached Gonzalez in club volleyball for six years.
“You can tell she is a coach’s kid,” Smith said. “She has been around the game all her life. Maria was a very in-your-face kind of player. Lexie is different personality-wise. She is calm and one of the nicest kids — very coachable and a leader for us.
“She has the respect of the coaches in the area. They have seen her for years. I’m sure they will be glad when she graduates.”
Exactly what Gonzales will do after graduation is a point for debate. Her mother sees volleyball as her passion but says golf might be a better scholarship option.
“I’ve told her she could play golf and walk on to play volleyball,” Maria Gonzalez said. “Whatever she decides is what we will go with.”