Story by Keenan Hall, Staff writer
Murray State volleyball sophomore libero Alex Kaufmann has been a vital key for the Racers. She holds down the back row as one of the teams’ best defensive players.
Kaufmann is from Woodstock, Illinois where she played with current teammate, sophomore outside hitter Rachel Giustino. Kaufmann was one of the leaders of a successful high school volleyball club. She was appointed captain three times on her volleyball team at Marion Central Catholic High School. Kaufmann currently holds a school-record 1,311 digs and contributed to a state championship in 2015.
Giustino has been one of Kaufmann’s longest teammates since her early childhood. They were a dynamic duo Marian Central Catholic. Giustino said Kaufmann is more than the best player she had played with but also one of her closest friends.
“I have to say she’s my best friend because that’s going to make me biased,” Giustino said. “I think Alex is the best volleyball player I’ve ever played with. Besides coach [Dave] Schwepker. She works harder than anyone else. She is always doing little things that people don’t notice. Being a back-row player she doesn’t always get a lot of the glor, so I think this is super awesome that she’s getting some credit for her hard work.”
This season, Kaufmann recorded her career high in digs with 19 in a win against Eastern Illinois. She then broke her own record the night after. Kaufmann tallied 30 digs, a new career high, in a five game rematch against SIUE. Kaufmann was voted defensive player of the week in the OVC for the first week.
The libero plays an interesting role on a volleyball court, libero is a position term for back row player, and their task on a volleyball court is to secure the back line of their team’s play area. A libero is not allowed to block or attack the ball. The libero wears an opposite jersey color from the rest of their teammates, so they can be identified easily by the opposing team. They are also usually skillful defensive players.
Having a charismatic person at such an important position is a necessity for a great team. Racers’ senior middle blocker Olivia Chatman lauded Kaufmann and her play so far this season. Chatman also said Kaufmann’s keen sense of focus provides relief for the team.
“It’s so great I don’t even worry if I miss a block personally, because I know I have Alex there to pick me up,” Chatman said. She’s always there; she always hustling sideline to sideline to get every ball. She goes all out for everything. I have all my faith in her.”
Kaufmann said volleyball has been commonplace in her life from a young age.
“I’ve been playing since I could walk because my dad coached before I was even born,” Kaufmann said. “Competitively, I started playing when I was twelve.”
Kaufmann’s said her successful play boils down to her ability to lock in and focus on the task at hand.
“Something that helps me a lot is we’ve been doing a team prayer and that really calms me down,” Kaufmann said. “Staying positive, not letting the distractions of the crowd who’s here, who are we playing, just forgetting about all those distractions and remembering to play the game that I love.”