WINONA LAKE – It takes a special person to win the Susan Hellings Award. Alexa Hill did it twice.
As the only person to ever repeat the honor, Hill accepted her second crystal memento a couple weeks ago in a ceremony in Branson, Missouri. The Hellings Award is the highest individual honor handed out to volleyball student-athletes by the NCCAA, celebrating one athlete each year for outstanding Christian character, athletic and academic achievement as well as community service.
As described by Grace head coach Katie Van Hofwegen, “Her excellence in every avenue makes her worthy of this award. When you read what the award is all about, it defines who Lex is. Academic excellence, athletic excellence and then the Christian character behind it. She’s a 4.0 student, works in the education department and is a leader in the department. Athletically, her amount of awards speak for themselves in her four years here.
“To me, there’s no question from those two aspects alone. But then, you take the person. She embodies the Christian athlete. She’s humble. She’s serving. She’s dedicated. At the end of the day she knows volleyball is just volleyball. That’s not her goal.”
Hill is the fifth (and sixth) volleyballer from Grace to win the award, joining Hannah Clemons (2014), Rachel Bult (2011), Kate Millen (2000) and Marci Norris (1994).
For someone who is a two-time national award winner, the all-time assist leader at Grace in the modern volleyball era (rally scoring) and one of the most decorated volleyballers to come through the program, Hill admitted she had never signed an autograph. Not as a high school star at Huntington North, not for a fan of the Lancers, not even on a bank check.
Hill is as humble as they come.
“I was more surprised the second time,” stated Hill. “I didn’t know of the award the first time, so when coach called me a couple weeks ago telling me I won it again, I said ‘I didn’t know I could win this twice!’ It was definitely very exciting and very humbling to know that coach was wanting to honor me again. And that the NCCAA would pick me again. It just made me very thankful that the Lord continued to provide. Even though the season looked different, he was still able to provide that award.”
The Hellings Award was just icing on the cake for an outstanding college run for Hill. A three-year starting setter for the Lancers, Hill hoisted 4,537 assists in a career that had her begin as a defensive specialist as a freshman. A three-time First Team All-Crossroads League selection, her 1,369 assists in 2019 ranked 10th in the NAIA. Get a load of these 2019 match assist totals – 31 matches with 30-plus assists, 16 matches of 40, four over 50 and a whopping 63 in a thrilling five-set win over a ranked Mt. Vernon Nazarene in October.
“I would love to say I was surprised to hear she won it again,” laughed Van Hofwegen, “In my head it just makes sense. Watching her play the past few years, being a leader. Watching her serve in the missions trip in the Dominican. The NCCAA board got to interact with her and got to see what she’s all about. It just makes sense. I was so excited. It defines Alexa Hill to a tee.”
Getting Hill to jump in on her volleyball stardom might be the hardest part as she transitions to the ‘real life’ part of the college experience. As a 3.99 GPA carrier in elementary education, Hill highly anticipates her foray into the classroom full of what she hopes to be her biggest fans. While she doubts she’ll hang any posters of her in GC regalia in her first classroom, coming from a family of seven siblings, a room full of pre-teens to win over should be a whole new ballgame.
“I love volleyball and talking about the game, and these have been four of the best years of my life,” Hill said. “I am excited to see what the role looks like for me in the spring doing student teaching. My mentor teacher is actually friends with coach so she knows the game, and she’s told the kids all about it. It’s sweet when they come up and ask me about it. It’s fun and can help you connect with some students about it.”
Hill closed by laughing off celebrity, “But we’ll probably never talk about any of the awards!”