December 1, 2020 – By NJP
Alexa Hopman, Monroe’s setter, is familiar with dealing with adversity. She began last season with high goals as a junior for herself and for her Falcon team. In one of her first games, an ankle sprain put her season in jeopardy but she was determined to push through despite the injury. It was a tough road, but it was a perfect example of will and perseverance prevailing over pain and suffering.
Monroe finished at 16-9, only losing regular season matches to Middlesex county elite teams JP Stevens, East Brunswick, and Colonia who combined for an impressive 70-14 record during 19-20. They took JP Stevens and East Brunswick to three sets during the the year, lost to JPS in the GMC tournament semi-final, and ended up losing to sectional champ Williamstown in state playoffs. A very respectful season.
Alexa pounded 26 aces on the service line as a junior and led the team in assists. Caroline Guerin is also a gifted setter which could provide some flexibility for a 6-2 scheme or perhaps some additional rotations for either player at outside. Alexa is relishing the responsibility of leading and strategizing the teams attack. As leaders often do, she wants the ball in her hands during key situations.
Hopman has sweet hands and tremendous volleyball smarts and instincts. She’s is well schooled and an expert on a wide variety of sets for her hitters leaving it very difficult for opponents to predict and block. She is versatile and has the VBIQ to continue to rise at the collegiate level. She is very accomplished to the point you would think her Dad was a seasoned volleyball coach that taught her from a young age the basics and mental toughness to succeed…
Here is our interview with Ms. Hopman…
Tell us a bit about yourself, Alexa?
I am a senior this year at Monroe Township High School. My school is currently attending remotely but my teachers are making the best of learning for all of us. In my family we have a lot of athletes including my brother Justin, who wrestles for Centenary University, and all of my cousins with outstanding athletic performance. But I really owe it to my Mom and Dad who have pushed me the most to be the best I can be and have supported me through everything.
How long have you played volleyball and what inspired you to take up volleyball initially?
I started playing volleyball in 6th grade but the sport had been around me my entire life. I played many sports and tried a lot of things but nothing made me happier than volleyball. Having my Dad as a coach, I got to grow up around all of these great volleyball players who treated me like a little sister that played on his team. Also, my cousin, who played at Old Bridge, encouraged me to get into the sport too.
What are your metrics/details? Height, vertical, position, club team, etc. What’s your favorite position to play?
I am 5’9 and I am a setter. I originally started off hitting but always had clean hands. My coach at the time, Michael Collins, pulled me aside before a game one day and asked me how I felt about setting. I love to play the position of a hitter on the court but once he had told me what would be best for the team I knew I had to step up. I worked hard everyday to learn the different skills of setting and fell in love with being the quarterback of the court.
Tell us about your Falcon teammates. Who do you expect will be this year’s standout and up and coming players?
At Monroe there is tough competition, my teammates are always working very hard to get time out on the court. Another senior, Caroline Guerin has great setting skills and is my biggest competition. She is fast and a hard worker with great hands. Caroline and I are good friends and we always work well together and push each other. The school had recently made a team in our middle school so the upcoming classes are getting better and have a bright future of volleyball ahead, especially with the great coaching staff and program.
Monroe had a great season last year finishing 16-9, going to the Conference semi-finals, and making to the state sectional second round before getting clipped by eventual champ Williamstown. What is your expectation for this years squad?
My expectations this year are very high with all the extra time we have to practice. Since our season has been set back it has given us time to work even harder and make it farther than last year. With social distancing, we have been able to modify some workouts that we do together as well as play outside and on sand with limited players. It is always a fun time with my teammates. We are each other’s best friends and with that connection it will show on the court when we can start our season.
You had an outstanding season as a junior leading the team in assists. What are your goals for this upcoming season?
A goal I have for the upcoming season is to lead my team all the way to the end. As a setter, I make the plays and my team has a lot of trust in me. I hope to lead my team with assists again and get even more than I had last year.
Tell us about your club volleyball experience at Warren Six Pack.
My club experience at Six Pack is where I fell in love with the sport. I spent countless hours in the gym with the great coaches who taught me so much. I started when I was 12 but there wasn’t a team yet for my age group and they put me up to the 15’s team. I was pushed everyday with girls who had been playing much longer than me and they patiently taught me everything I needed to get to be where I am today. All the summer camps, practices, and tournaments I participated in impacted me tremendously. Without all these amazing players and coaches at club I wouldn’t be half as experienced as I am. This also had given me some of my best friends from all over the state that came to the gym, all because we shared the same love for volleyball.
Your Dad is one of the most prolific coaches in NJ with back to back state championships for the Old Bridge boys team. How has he influenced your volleyball career?
Without my Dad I would not have as many great opportunities as I did. I grew up all around volleyball. My Dad even built a volleyball net in the backyard and would play with me starting from a young age. He also had me come to practices and play with his team, who were double my height. He always told them not to take it easy on me because he knew what I was capable of. I got to experience volleyball so much different than others and I owe it all to him. As much as he tells me he is proud of me, he should know how proud I am of him with all the things he has accomplished as a coach. He even stepped down as head coach this year so he can come to every single one of my games for my senior year. One the best experiences I had was playing against my own fathers team. It is the game I look forward to every season and all of my family loves it too.
NJP considers you as one of the top players in the state. Do you plan on playing volleyball in College? (If so, which ones are you looking at?)
Playing in college is still up in the air for me. In college, I want to major in Speech-Language Pathology and become a Speech Therapist. I have not committed to a college yet and I am still weighing out my options and considering where I want to go and what is best for me.
Beach or hard court?
I am a full on hard court player. This year over the summer was my first year playing beach. I was always interested in beach but I never fully committed to doing it. This summer with all the extra time I’ve gotten because of the season push back, I decided it would be a great idea to try beach. Although, I loved the atmosphere and how different it was I will always be in love with hard court.
What is your favorite inspirational video or music that you like to watch or listen to before games?
My team loves music more than anyone else. We will bug anyone we see for the auxiliary cord before every game until we get it. One song that gets us pumped up every time is Magic in the Hampton’s, by Social House. Every time it comes on we immediately spark up and get the entire gym to clap their hands. One of my teammates, Alex Spinelli, was in my Phys. Ed. class last year and we made a dance to this song. Every time I hear it, I can only think of my team and the connection it bring upon us.
How are you and your family dealing with current world situation with COVID-19? How did the postponement of the Fall high school season effect your team?
My family and I are all healthy and doing well. Although we are bored of being in the house we have all picked up activities and different things that we can do together. The postponement for the fall season upset me because I’d been looking up to my senior year for so long. On the bright side, it is giving me more room to work on my skills and improve and my team has also had more bonding time than anyone else ever had!
What are your other hobbies or interests?
One of my hobbies I picked up over the quarantine was learning how to ride a longboard. It was a good activity I could do for some exercise and in the outdoors without coming in contact with others. My best friend Faith, taught me exactly how to do it and with a lot of patience from her she helped me learn. Although I took some falls it never stopped me from trying again.
What was your biggest setback in volleyball besides the postponement of the season?
My biggest setback was pushing through my junior year with a hurt foot. All the way at the beginning of the season, I twisted my ankle. Luckily, the trainers at Monroe are amazing, but I still had to push through a lot of pain last season. I spent a lot of time in the trainers office trying different therapies and constantly getting my ankle wrapped so I could continue to push hard and play through it. I got lucky with the extra time to rest and do physical therapy and I am fully recovered for my senior year !