Sophomore outside hitter Alex Fuelling dives for a ball during a game this season. Fuelling wears the No. 2 jersey, just like her mother did, for Ball State. DN FILE PHOTO JORDAN HUFFER
Mother-daughter duo represents Ball State
Maybe it’s in the genes.
Ball State women’s volleyball outside hitter Alex Fuelling has carried her team’s offense this season, just one attack attempt shy of 700 and leads the team in kills with 285.
For her, it isn’t just practice that’s brought her to where she is today. She’s had some biological help, as well.
Her mother, Leesa Fuelling, played for Ball State in the mid-80s as an outside attacker.
It isn’t the only similarity the two share.
“We’ve very competitive and don’t like to lose, but we really enjoy the game,” Leesa Fuelling said. “The game has changed since I played; it’s much faster and quicker.”
Alex Fuelling was born into a line of volleyball talent. Not only did her mother play, but her aunt, Leeanne Gleim played four years at the University of Southern Indiana, and her grandmother coached at Adams Central High School.
With volleyball surrounding her life, Alex Fuelling said it wasn’t hard for her to immediately become interested in the sport.
“My mother [and] everyone in my family had a big influence [on] me when it came to volleyball,” she said.
And just like her mother, Alex Fuelling didn’t originally start out at Ball State. She transferred from Morehead State University, while her mother transferred from Kansas State University.
Despite Leesa Fuelling’s history at Ball State, it wasn’t even an option for Alex Fuelling when she was in high school.
When she was going through the recruiting process, Ball State’s head coach was Dave Boos. Ball State didn’t even show any interest in her.
Immediately after Alex Fuelling committed to Morehead State, Steve Shondell accepted the Ball State head coach position. However, she said she was happy at the time with her decision to attend Morehead State.
“Ball State was always right in the backyard for me, so I really wanted something further away,” she said.
After her freshman year, Alex Fuelling transferred to Ball State. She’s not the only Fuelling to received tutelage from Shondell, the American Volleyball Coaches Association Hall of Fame inductee.
Leesa Fuelling learned under Shondell when she played for the Munciana Volleyball Club, an organization for ages 12-18 that Shondell created.
Although Shondell said he doesn’t remember a lot about Leesa Fuelling’s time at Munciana, he thinks coaching both of them has been a little different.
“There’s a special feeling about coaching a mother and a daughter,” he said. “There’s a connection there that doesn’t always happen with other players.”
Shondell would know, as he’s coached numerous generations of family members because of the more than three decades he spent at Burris Laboratory School.
Alex Fuelling even shares another special bond with her mom that she wears on the front and back of her jersey every time she steps on the court.
The bright red two, embroidered on both sides of her jersey, is the same number her mother wore nearly 20 years ago.
As Leesa Fuelling watches her daughter methodically roam the court at Worthen Arena, wearing the same jersey she did in her past, she can’t help but think of her former playing days and analyze her performance.
“I’m not just critiquing her internally, it happens verbally sometimes, too,” she said. “I can tell sometimes when she’s struggling and try to help her by telling her a few key things to watch out for.”
With her former experience, Leesa Fuelling can’t help but try to help her daughter, even when she doesn’t necessarily want to hear it — a sentiment that she said she’s picked up on over time.
“There are times when I don’t want to listen to what she has to say.” Alex Fuelling said. “But she actually knows what she’s talking about and is always willing to help me. … I can rely on her because she’s been in the same situations as me.”
Even with the knowledge she offers her daughter, there isn’t any doubt in Leesa Fuelling about who the better player is.
“Oh, it’s definitely Alex,” she said, laughing.
Something only a mother could say.