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Taking Flight: With New Mindset, A-C Valley Senior Lexi Ruckdeschel Excelling on the Volleyball Court for the Falcons

FOXBURG, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Lexi Ruckdeschel had to change her thinking.

Heading into her senior season on the volleyball court at A-C Valley, Ruckdeschel found she had just as much work to do on improving her mental approach than she did on her physical skills.

Simply put, the A-C Valley middle hitter had to get out of her own head.

“It changed from, ‘Boy, I have to do great,’ to just hitting the ball and playing. Now it’s like I’m just focused on that and that new mindset. Just playing and having fun.”

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Redbank Valley, Keystone, and Union/A-C Valley sports coverage on Explore and D9Sports.com is brought to you by Heeter Lumber.

With that new approach to the game, Ruckdeschel is enjoying a standout season.

She’s had back-to-back matches with 14 kills and 14 digs.

Ruckdeschel has 56 kills, 49 digs and 10 blocks so far this season for the red-hot Falcons.

“After last season, I was like, ‘What’s next? What’s next for our team?’” Ruckdeschel said. “I knew I had to change my mindset and I did. I’m just not thinking so much and just doing it. I know how to play the game. I know how good I can be.”

Ruckdeschel has shown it.

All over the court.

Last season she was rotated off the floor when she rotated to the back row. This year, that has changed.

She’s a six-rotation player now and excelling at all aspects of the game.

“I think historically with middle hitters, a lot of the time they get sat down when they’re in the back row for a libero,” said A-C Valley volleyball coach Mike Meals. “But in addition to being my best offensive player right now, she may be my best defensive player. She doesn’t get a break.”

Ruckdeschel doesn’t want one. She relishes that role. She enjoys never coming off the court.

“Coming off and then going back on, it was just like restarting the match again,” Ruckdeschel said. “It really drags you down. I just tried my hardest in practice to show I could stay on the court the whole time. I mean, it gets tiring, but I love it.”

She worked hard on her defense in the offseason, as well as her hitting and blocking, to be as well-rounded as she could be.

“I’ve changed a lot as a player, for the better,” Ruckdeschel said. “I’m a completely different player than I was last year. It’s kind of strange. From the beginning of January until April, I was in the weight room a lot by myself. It was just me, lifting weights. I think I can get up higher on my vertical — at least I hope so because I worked on it for months.”

That’s why Ruckdeschel is not surprised by her hot start to the season.

“I kind of expected it,” she said. “During the summer league, I knew what I had to do and I knew what I had to work on. Now in the actual season, I won’t be changing anything.”

Ruckdeschel is also an avid racer of ATVs, which takes up a lot of time during the summer months, mainly on weekend.

This was a tough year on the track for Ruckdeschel, however.

“I’ve been breaking down a lot,” she said. “So, this year didn’t go so well.”

Ruckdeschel’s focus has changed from driving at breakneck speeds around the track to hitting a volleyball as hard as she can.

She wants to play volleyball at the next level.

That was something she had never planned on doing until recently.

“I had some doubts about it. I didn’t think I was good enough,” Ruckdeschel said. “When I changed my mindset and became more positive and focused on my game, that all changed. I know how to play and I feel completely different than I did last year. I know I can play.”

Ruckdeschel said she also knows the A-C Valley volleyball team can compete.

After a slow start, the Falcons have won three straight matches.

The team has gelled with Ruckdeschel right in the middle of it. Senior Mackenzie Parks has has also become a standout all-around player for A-C Valley. Junior Bella Ielase and seniors Keira McVay and Jenna Stefanacci are also elevating their games in their second full seasons as starters.

Last year, A-C Valley was young around senior Meah Ielase and the growing pains were evident, especially in the second half of the campaign.

“Last year, our seniors this year were just getting their first crack at it last year as juniors,” Meals said. “I think that experience from last year, even though we faltered a little bit in the second half of the season, is going to help this group. Mackenzie is a pretty good athlete. Jenna Stefanacci is doing a really good job setting the ball for us now. Lexi is definitely our leader, but we’re getting contributions all the way around the court right now. That’s important to not have the other team be able to focus solely on Lexi.”

Ruckdeschel said she and her teammates have talked about making a run this season.

A-C Valley has long had a successful program and last year’s disappointing end left a bad taste in the Falcons’ mouths.

“Me and the other girls were talking about this the other night after the game. We know we can do it,” Ruckdeschel said. “We just have to keep working together and staying positive.”

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Redbank Valley, Keystone, and Union/A-C Valley sports coverage on Explore and D9Sports.com is brought to you by Heeter Lumber.



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