With both parents having played collegiate basketball, it might have been expected that Alexa Niko would follow in their footsteps onto the court. But instead of hoops, the Orange Lutheran senior found a passion for volleyball, a sport she tried at age 12 at the suggestion of her mother.
“My mom forced me into it, but it became something that I truly love,” says Niko.
As an opposite hitter for the Lancers, Niko has a secret weapon – she is left-handed – which gives her unique versatility on the court. The team aspect of volleyball is what initially drew her in and remains at the core of why she loves the game.
“I love my team,” says the 18-year old. “Playing with girls I would consider to be my best friends, that is one of the most wonderful parts about playing in high school.”
Not unlike most athletes, Niko admits that navigating the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic has not been easy. Once her club season was cut short last March, she approached the spring and summer months with a determined mindset and remained focused on treating chronic back issues and getting herself as prepared as possible for when she could return to the court.
“I took that time to get stronger,” says the three-year varsity player. “It was finally a time where I could work out for the first time and not be in the midst of playing…I truly had an offseason.”
While her senior season remains unconfirmed, Niko and her teammates, led by new Lancer head coach Henry Valiente, look forward to giving league opponents like Mater Dei a run for their money.
“My goal is to use that passion that we’ve all basically kept inside for a long time…and fight as hard as we can to get as far as we can,” says Niko.
Niko’s role as a senior leader will be a key component in helping to guide her younger teammates towards achieving these goals.
“Alexa is someone you can always rely on, and she is a senior that leads by example,” says Valiente. “She is often the first in the gym and the last to leave. She exudes nothing but positivity, which then pours onto her teammates.”
Away from the court, Niko is an Ignite Leader and is in her third year as a member of OLu’s Creative Worship Team, serving this year as co-president. She is grateful for a platform that has allowed her to explore both her love for singing and her relationship with Christ.
“It’s really helped me really understand my role in God’s house, how he’s working through my voice and how he’s working through me to get his Word out to other people,” says Niko.
Her plans for after graduation are still in process, but Niko hopes to continue her volleyball career alongside studying visual arts. Role models such as former USC libero Victoria Garrick, her parents’ mantra of “lean into the challenge” and her journey of faith have kept her steady during these uncertain times.
“As an athlete, God has helped me recognize that my athletic talent is truly from him and a gift that cannot be wasted or taken for granted,” says Niko. “I need to use it in a way that still glorifies him.”
Learn more about Alexa by watching "The Walk".