College junior and volleyball star Lexi Mitchell was voted the DIII HERO of the Week by HERO Sports for the week of Oct. 23 after collecting 24 kills, 23 digs, and 6 aces against Denison University Oct. 16. In what has been an outstanding collegiate career, Mitchell’s last season for the Yeowomen has been her best.
Mitchell didn’t always see herself as a college volleyball player. When she was a senior in high school, Mitchell’s younger sister was preparing to play Division III volleyball at the University of Chicago. Mitchell, on the other hand, didn’t think she was at the same level as her sister, let alone good enough to play at the collegiate level. Her high school coach thought otherwise.
“I just applied to Oberlin as a regular student,” Mitchell said, “but my high school coach actually sent my tapes to Coach Rau without me even knowing. She wanted me to play in college.”
It’s a good thing she did. Mitchell has been an integral member of the Yeowomen volleyball team for the past three seasons. As an outside hitter, she has led the team two years in a row in kills and ace percentage. Additionally, she has received North Coast Athletic Conference recognition for her two completed seasons, earning NCAC honorable mention in her first year and NCAC second-team recognition in her second.
Although unplanned, Mitchell’s collegiate sports career came as no surprise to those who know her.
She’s been an athlete her entire life, and with two volleyball enthusiasts for parents and four athletic sisters, she was never short of people to practice with growing up.
While at Oberlin, Mitchell’s athletic pursuits have extended beyond volleyball. She joined the softball team in the winter of her first year, playing right field and shortstop until she tore her labrum diving for a ball about halfway through the season. She underwent surgery right before finals, and spent the following summer rehabbing for volleyball.
“It took me the whole summer to recover,” Mitchell recalled. “It was so hard. I couldn’t train, find a job, or do anything, really.”
While many Oberlin athletes spend their athletic tenure building toward their triumphant senior season, this will not be Mitchell’s path. Mitchell’s third volleyball season at Oberlin will also be her last: a 3–2 engineering student, she will finish the final two years of her five-year college career in the engineering program at a large research institution.
While the 3–2 program is a popular path for students who want both a liberal arts experience and an engineering degree, it’s an uncommon choice for athletes, who often don’t want to miss their fourth and final season.
Mitchell, however, is feeling optimistic about both her athletic and academic career after Oberlin. While the applications for her next school don’t open up until December, she has her eyes on engineering programs at Columbia University in New York City and Washington University of St. Louis — and their volleyball programs, too.
“If I end up at Wash U, I’ll probably try to play on their Division III team,” Mitchell said. “This would be particularly fun because I’d get to play against my sister at Chicago.”
While Columbia’s volleyball program competes at the Division I level, Ivy League sports are often closer in competition to Division III teams than other Division I programs, so Mitchell believes she might have a chance to play there, too.
For someone who never expected to play sports at Oberlin, Mitchell is beginning to realize how much she’ll miss them when they’re over. Not only will she miss the team and the teammates she’s grown close to, but after this weekend’s upcoming tournament, she’ll most likely fall just short of breaking some personal records that she would definitely accomplish in a fourth season.
“Sometimes I wish I could stay at Oberlin,” Mitchell said. “I’m really close to getting 1,000 kills, a goal I’ve always had, and if I had one more season here I’d definitely get there.”
No matter where she ends up next year, Mitchell is confident that sports will be a part of her life. Although she says she’ll miss the Oberlin volleyball team, her impending departure is already leaving her with the sense that she needs sports to feel whole.
“I’ll play something next year, no matter what,” Mitchell said. “It’ll be different — my classes will be more intense, and I’ll have to make new friends and get oriented at a new place. But I can’t imagine my life without sports.”