Serving up her future

Alaina Greenlee ‘23 plays for the sophomore volleyball team and is already setting goals for her future.


Katherine Shoppa, WSS Intern

“Mine!” she yells as the ball comes flying towards her. She extends her arms out and pushes up, sending the ball back into play. As she gets back into position, the scars and scrapes that cover her legs are visible, proof of her past experiences with the sport. This is Alaina Greenlee ’23 playing for the sophomore volleyball team. She has been playing volleyball since she was in fifth grade and is now playing as a defensive specialist/libero, meaning she plays in the back row being a defensive player and taking a lot of the hard hits from the other team. 

“I did a lot of sports, tried them, and I never liked any,” Greenlee said. “Well, I guess I knew I wanted to do it for a while, maybe after a year or two.” 

Greenlee started off when her mom signed her up for the rec center league and since then has found inspiration in many college liberos, especially those of colleges she’d like to play for.

“Iowa would be snazzy. I know my way around the volleyball court and where the weight room is,” she said, “So I feel like it would be fun, or Nebraska. That’d be fun but also Stanford is so good. But I mean, Nebraska is too. So Nebraska or Stanford.”     

I did a lot of sports, tried them, and I never liked any. Well, I guess I knew I wanted to do it for a while, maybe after a year or two. ”

— Alaina Greenlee '23

Not only does she know what she wants to do with her future, but her current coach, Paola Jaramillo or PJ, has high hopes for what Greenlee can accomplish.

“I hope to see her achieve her personal volleyball goals,” Paola said, “I think she is such a strong player on the court, so coachable, and a wonderful human being off the court, that I do not see why she wouldn’t be able to play college volleyball if that is what interests her.”

As well as having some long term goals, Greenlee also has goals for next season. She hopes to make it onto varsity during her sophomore year. 

“There’s a one on one clinic for an hour. So they focus on your skills and make you better. So I’m going to start doing those and I’m going to try to get so good over the summer that I’ll tryout for varsity,” she said. 

Part of this determined attitude comes from one of her regrets from 2018. The volleyball club Imagine had an opening for a setter on the 15-1 team filled with eighth, ninth and tenth graders. The tryouts had passed but the tryouts for the 18-1 team were still open, which had mostly upperclassmen.

I wanted to but the 18s scared me with the seniors and I was like, would I want to do that? No. So like, I didn’t go try out and then Imagine shut down,” she said, “I really wanted to play for Imagine, but I really, really don’t want to try with the 18s. I mean, I could do it. But I’d probably die. And they’d be like, ‘Oh, she’s so bad.’ So I mean, I would want to do it over again, but I probably wouldn’t.”

Not only did Greenlee make some pressuring decisions, she also had to deal with pressuring volleyball games, one of them being regionals from two years ago.

  “We were playing for the championship and we kept getting aces. We were so hyped up, but then we lost,” she said. “I don’t really feel pressured usually. Except for, I don’t know, the big hitters hitting at me, but it’s only for a split second.”

Her thoughts definitely translate to those around her in a way that does not go unnoticed by her coaches, including her Iowa City Rockets coach from 7th grade, Danica Haight.

Alaina brings a calming demeanor to her team.  She does a great job on not getting ruffled up by her own or her teammates’ mistakes and does a good job at staying positive,” she said about her.

 Along with having pressuring situations, she’s also had many positive experiences and lessons learned through volleyball that have helped shape who and where she is now,

  When I was young, I was bombastic. Like, I was just so loud and annoying kinda. Then I got really quiet,” she said, “well I think volleyball found that balance.”

Greenlee has also learned many lessons about being on the court that have helped her improve to where she is now as a player.

“On the court, I had to learn to go, like you just gotta go. I guess that made me more determined,” she said, “it’s kind of like, mind over matter, I guess. ‘Cause sometimes I’m going to get something and I’m like, ‘Oh, I’m gonna get hurt if I do this.’ But then I’m like, ‘You know what, I don’t care. I need to get this.’” 

Greenlee’s coach Paola has also seen her improvements in just in the few months she’s been playing on the sophomore team.

She tended to be a bit of a passive player even with her strong skill-set and she has grown into such a strong leader on the court,” she said, “One of my favorite things about Alaina is her ability to be self-reflective. She knows when she doesn’t give us a great pass and right away she verbalizes what the error was and works to make the change. She is also such a positive presence on the team and has a knack for making people laugh.”

All of these experiences have shaped her past with volleyball, and at the end of the day, she said there’s no other sport she’d rather do.

“It’s the only thing I like to do,” she said, “I love it. So yeah. My passion.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email