Last August, Ball State’s Alex Fuelling was a volleyball assistant at Wapahani High School, wishing she was the one running around the court.

Now, after transferring from Morehead State after her freshman season and sitting out last season, she’s a starting outside hitter for Ball State’s volleyball team.

“I wasn’t happy at all; things were not working out,” Fuelling said of her time at Morehead. “I had a really hard time connecting with the coach; I wasn’t comfortable playing there at all.”

Fuelling made her decision to leave Morehead and was forced to sit out a season due to NCAA transfer regulations. Without being able to step on the court and aid her teammates, Fuelling described 2012 as long and difficult, embracing a role as a student of the game and less as a competitor. Despite wishing she could have been playing, she said she understands the ways watching the game from the sideline helped her become a better player.

“You pick up the little things that you don’t notice when you’re actually playing,” Fuelling said. “It motivates you, sitting on the sideline and watching everybody else compete. I didn’t like not playing.”

Head coach Steve Shondell has high hopes for his sophomore eligible transfer. After losing outside hitter Kara Bates, Ball State is looking to rejuvenate its offense and Shondell said he believes Fuelling could be a key.

With three years of eligibility, Fuelling will immediately be inserted into the starting lineup, where Shondell said he hopes she can be a difference-maker. 

Although she’s yet to see game action with the Cardinals, she’s shown passion and cerebral ability that’s impressed her coaches.

She’s impressed them to the point that Shondell has described her as a leader, even with the five seniors on the team.

“She’s a fantastic competitor,” he said. “She plays fearless and always aggressive. She’s smart as well and is one of those players who’ll find a way to beat you.”

Fuelling may have discovered that aggression during her time at Morehead.

She said there are a number of differences between her former team and current Cardinals, one of them being the offensive style.

Offense at Morehead is predicated toward attacking all the time, focusing less on defense and ball control. Now at Ball State, Fuelling said she’s more at ease with the system that revolves around solid defense and keeping control of the ball and less on attacking. She credits the improvements she’s made since her transfer to Shondell, saying he’s more detail oriented than most of her previous coaches. 

Without Ball State, Fuelling said she doesn’t know if she would have made the improvements that she has.

“He works on technique a lot which is good because it can be something I lack,” she said. “He’s always positive and pushes you to be the best.”

Shondell said the biggest improvements he’s seen come from defense and ball control, along with her blocking game. 

In a game where plays happen within the blink of an eye, teams that are faster and have better fundamentals will have an immediate advantage. 

Shondell said he believes Fuelling’s desire to win shows at all times and makes her stand out during practice.

“She goes 100 miles an hour all the time and is so intense,” Shondell said. “That kind of attitude on the court tends to be contagious and rub off on teammates.”

The time she’s spent not playing has caused her to reflect on lessons she learned at Morehead, that staying patient through difficult periods is critical because things will work out in the end. 

Although she prefers Ball State, Fuelling said she formed a lot of mental fortitude that she’ll continue to use for the rest of her life. 

“Keep your head straight and stay positive,” Fuelling said. “Eventually, things will be OK and stay focused on what you want.”

With just a few days until Ball State opens its season Friday in Tampa, Fuelling said she is eager for the season to open and finally play collegiate volleyball for the first time in nearly two years.

It’s a lot better than watching from the sidelines.