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Sparks all set with St. Francis

MICHIGAN CITY -- While the COVID-19 pandemic quarantine shut down sports at all levels in the spring, Alexa Sparks got busy on planning her future as a volleyball player.

"Every day, I was sending out emails," the Michigan City senior said. "I sent out hundreds. I made four, five calls."

Sparks' reach was all across the country, primarily to NAIA and Division II schools with a few D-Is sprinkled in the mix.

"The biggest factor was making sure they had Pre-Med," said Sparks, a 4.0 student who aspires to go into Pediatrics with a focus on either physical therapy or surgery. "That's the only thing I cared about at the beginning."

In the process, she linked Hudl video and You Tube clips her dad Kevin pieced together, for coaches who couldn't see her live but wanted to see her in action could view.

"It took a couple months," Sparks said. "I started with 180 and got it down to five or six. By the end, I was still trying to work through stuff. I would keep in contact with the ones I really enjoyed talking to."


Michigan City setter Alexa Sparks verbally committed last week to St. Francis University in Fort Wayne.


In June, with restrictions on campus visits eased, Sparks began going to the schools with mutual interest, including St. Francis in Fort Wayne, where the connection was almost immediate.

"I did a couple virtual ones before stuff started to open up," she said. "They invited me to a camp, I loved the team, I feel like I worked really well with them. I loved the vibe, I loved the locaton, I loved the campus, I loved that they had Pre-Med."

As it turned out, St. Francis was in desperate need of a setter, Sparks' current position with the Wolves. An offer followed and Sparks made her verbal commitment early this week.

"I'll have to work for my spot of course, but they really want me to start," she said. "I would set or pass. That's not a big thing for me."

Wolves coach Jim Kaufman likes the fit for Sparks.

"When I was at Valpo, we had a couple girls who went there and did really well," he said. "She's such a smart player. I don't think she's going to have any problems transitioning. She's just blossomed every year, whatever she's done, whether it's setting, hitting, Libero, she's done it very well. Everything they throw at her, she'll do fine. She's so versatile."

Sparks was coached by her dad at Queen of All Saints from grades 5-8. TR Harlan was her coach at City her freshman and sophomore years, moving her to Libero on the 2018 team that won a sectional. He also had her handle the Libero position on his Epic United club team, 18 Elite Rox, last year, when she played up a division.

"Alexa is a tremendous player with all the skills needed to be successful at the collegiate level," Harlan said. "She has a great understanding of the game and her work ethic is unmatched."

A member of National Honor Society, Rho Kappa and president of the French Club, Sparks will receive an athletic and academic package, including the school's President's Scholarship, that constitutes 'a pretty good offer.'

"I started (looking at schools) early for that reason," she said. "I wanted to make sure I was on the right path. Now I can enjoy my senior year, not be stressed about it, just have fun my last year."


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