UPDATED: Netherlain signs with MIssouri S & T
The all-time digs leader at Sullivan High School is going to have a chance to extend her volleyball career.
Lexi Netherlain signed a letter of intent to play volleyball at Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla on Thursday.
“At first, I didn’t really think it was my kind of school,” said Netherlain, who had 553 digs in 2015 to break the SHS single-season record. “But once I went out there, I fell in love with the place.
“When they made me an offer, I immediately jumped at the chance.”
Sullivan coach Sue Chagnon said she knew immediately that Netherlain was going to be a great addition to the program.
“When Lexi showed up to my open gyms prior to her freshman year, I knew Sullivan was getting something special from this transfer from North Central,” said Chagnon. “Her speed and intensity on the court were obvious. But as a freshman her knowledge and passion for the game were most impressive.
“Prior to her sophomore year at Ball State camp then head coach Steve Shondel (winningest coach in IHSAA history with 21 state titles at Muncie Burris) approached me about her. He was very impressed with her skills and was shocked she was only going to be a sophomore.”
Netherlain said she visited IU-Kokomo and University of Southern Indiana was interested, but both were quickly dismissed.
“I didn’t look anywhere else after they made me an offer,” she said. “Also, I plan to major in psychology. I plan to get my masters in psychology and they have a great masters program there.”
Netherlain, the daughter of Jerry and Lori Netherlain, said Missouri S & T will treat her as an in-state student financially and she also will receive some athletic scholarship monies.
Netherlain, a 5-2 defensive specialist, grew up watching her sister Taylor Netherlain, a 2015 North Central graduate, play club volleyball.
“I started playing when I was 8,” said Lexi, who had 35 digs in a match on several occasions, one short of the school record of 36, set by Erika Huff in 2007. “My sister was playing and her coaches told me I could play on the younger teams. I started out as a setter, but they soon knew I was going to be short and they made me a defensive specialist.
“Taylor went and played volleyball at Franklin College before she got hurt. Something like this was just a dream. I never really thought seriously about having the opportunity of playing college volleyball, but it started to seem like a possibility after my sophomore season.”
Chagnon said that Netherlain was very committed.
“In the four years I have coached Lexi, she has shown a lot of consistency on the court and she has shown committment to improve her strengths,” said Chagnon. “She set goals and worked hard to achieve them in and out of season playing club volleyball for 6-7 months and high school for 3-4 months.
“Her one weakness initially was her willingness to be the loud vocal leader on the court. But this year she stepped up and was a strong leader on the court, talking to her blockers to help them set their defense and helping her hitters by reading the defense of the opponent and communicating what was open for our hitters.”
Back on Sept. 9 in a 25-20, 16-25, 25-20, 25-18 win, Netherlain had 26 digs. This gave her 1,732. This eclipsed Huff’s career digs mark of 1,730.
She ended up with 2,055 digs.
“I had never thought about any records until I set the season record in 2015,” said Netherlain. “After that, I thought that maybe I could set the career mark. So I set a goal to go after it.”
As a junior, Netherlain had 68 digs in a tournament at Jasper, setting a new school record.
Lexi said she wanted to break Huff’s record of 36 digs in a match, but was unable to do it.
“I think I had 35 a couple of times,” she said. “I had 35 when we beat Lincoln this year in the sectional semifinals.”
Netherlain was a part of the resurgence of Sullivan volleyball. Led by coach Sue Chagnon, the Lady Arrows won 12 matches in 2014, 25 in 2015, 29 and a Western Indiana Conference championship in 2016 and 30 and a sectional championship this past fall.
“Adison (Perry), Ryli (Bobbitt) and myself had played together for years and we came in together as freshmen,” said Netherlain. “One of our goals was to help turn the program around.
“Emma Royer came up the next year and we had a really good setter. We all played together and the chemistry was there.”
After winning the conference and losing to Northview in the 2016 sectional, Sullivan defeated Vincennes Lincoln and Princeton in the new Class 3A alignment, winning its first sectional in eight seasons.
But they had to avenge a regular-season loss to Lincoln.
“They beat us on their floor in four in the second match of the season,” Netherlain said of Lincoln. “Our chemistry was not there yet and we were not comfortable with our new lineup.
“But it all clicked in the sectional. We fought for it and won. It was really exciting to win it this year after losing to our rival in the sectional last year. I have made so many friends playing volleyball. It was great to share this with my teammates..”
Chagnon said that Netherlain has a great serve with the ability to place it where she wants and she extends every inch of her body to not let a ball hit the floor.
“By the end of the season her hips and knees are in a permanent state of bruising,” said Chagnon.
Netherlain said she will have to become aggressive and talk a lot more as part of her adjustment at the next level.
“We have a strength coach and have yoga each Monday at 6 a.m.,” she said. “I am going to get stronger, which will make me better.
“But I would not have the chance to play college volleyball without my parents. My dad put together all my recruiting videos and my mom would take me to practice for travel ball. I am very thankful for them. I feel very fortunate to have this opportunity.”
Chagnon believes that Lexi will contribute on the next level.
“I’m happy she is being given the opportunity at S&T a Division 2 NCAA school. Considering I thought she could go and play at many Division 1 schools. I know she can walk on the court in Missouri and immediately be an impact player for them defensively.”
Contributed photo: Sullivan senior Lexi Netherlain signed a letter-of-inent to play volleyball at the Missouri S & T on Thursday. She is surrounded in the front row by her parents, Jerry and Lori Netherlain. Also pictured are Sullivan volleyball coach Sue Chagnon and Sullivan trainer Tobie Steele.