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North volleyball senior battles MS while improving on-court prowess

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THE way Alexa Pelley roams the backcourt and dives to keep volleyballs from hitting the floor, it’s hard to imagine she has a potentially crippling disease.

But the Columbus North senior, who also is a cheerleader for basketball, gets shots from her mother three times a week to help thwart the effects of multiple sclerosis. She was diagnosed with the condition in December.

“My legs kind of go crazy sometimes, but other than that, if I’m constantly running or doing stuff, it’s OK,” Pelley said. “Volleyball doesn’t really affect me that much.”

Pelley did receive a scare late last season when she began feeling symptoms of MS. She played last year’s sectional with numbness in her legs and feet.

“I was fine,” Pelley said. “My legs were just completely numb. It didn’t affect my playing though.”

Last winter, Pelley was a varsity cheerleader for basketball. Her legs were numb when she went through tryouts.

“I didn’t tumble as much because I was scared because I couldn’t feel my legs,” Pelley said. “But other than that, I did everything.”

Pelley’s mother Lori is North’s freshman cheer coach and coached Alexa from Grades 5 through 9.

“I watch her closely, and I can probably tell when she’s overheated because that’s what triggers (the MS) — stress and overheating,” Lori Pelley said. “The disease attacks the sheets right around the nerves, so if it gets overheated, the body has to work on cooling itself.”

Alexa, who played club volleyball with the Hope-based HAVOC in the offseason, enters her third year as a starter for a Bull Dogs team that figures to be vastly improved from the past two seasons heading into Thursday’s season-opener against Shelbyville.

“My consistency has gotten better, and I’ve not gotten so down on myself,” Pelley said. “I’m just trying to stay positive. You can’t give up ever. You can’t ever let the ball drop.”

A defensive specialist the past two seasons, Pelley has won the starting libero role this fall.

“She’s earned that,” North coach Caitlin Greiner said. “She’s never stepped into the libero role before and this summer has made leaps and bounds with her consistency, her passing, her aggressiveness, her speed and agility and has hands-down won this position.

“She’s worked very, very hard to become a true leader on the team, and that’s been great,” she said. “She’s in every single play, and her aggressiveness and consistency is what has improved so much.”

Greiner said Pelley’s condition hasn’t affected her demeanor on or off the court.

“She still has the same great attitude and everything,” Greiner said. “Dealing with all that as a younger kid, it’s inspiring.”

“She’s a tough cookie,” Lori Pelley said. “She’s a determined little thing. She’s always determined to prove that she can still do it, which will help her in the long run to stay active and be positive.”

Alexa said it’s unlikely that she’ll play volleyball in college. She wants to study radiology or radiography and is looking at Ball State.

“I have such a peace about all of it,” Lori said. “I feel like she’s in God’s hands. The doctor has basically said that being active is the best thing to do. I trust him in what he says.”

This fall, Alexa hopes to help the Bull Dogs to a turnaround from a 13-21 season. She is one of seven seniors, four of which are entering their third year as starters.

“I’m excited for the season because we should be really good,” Alexa said. “We have a lot of seniors. I want to have a winning record and improve as a team and stay positive and hopefully come out on top in sectional.”

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