By Jeff Shearer
AUBURN, Ala. - Two factors determine when Auburn's volleyball team will practice each week: the availability of Auburn Arena, and the class schedule of Alexa Filley.
Auburn's career assists leader in rally scoring, Filley balances her last season as the Tigers' setter with her first semester in Auburn University's Harrison School of Pharmacy.
"I feel really interested in it, so it's easier to study things that I like," says Filley, a senior from Louisville, Kentucky.
Between patient visits, labs and meetings outside of class, Filley's pharmacy schedule changes each week, requiring flexibility from her teammates. On Sundays, she sends a group text with the plan for the upcoming week.
"They've been great," says Filley, a captain since her freshman year. "I'm so thankful that they're so understanding about it."
"It doesn't bother anybody at all," says fellow senior Macy Reece. "Everyone completely understands. She's doing awesome in the program. Nobody is bothered by it and we love that she's good to do it."
Filley's ability to juggle the demands of pharmacy school while leading the Tigers impresses Auburn coach Rick Nold.
"Giving them the time they need so they can achieve their dreams and their career goals, it's just something that we've committed to," Nold says. "We're fortunate to have a lot of smart kids, all of them smarter than me. It's something you love to see. I think they're a great example for any student-athlete."
Filley traces her interest in pharmacy to a career fair in fourth grade, when her mom suggested it is a job possibility.
"I was like, 'What is a pharmacist? So they work on a farm? I don't want to work on a farm,'" Alexa remembers saying. "She said, 'No, they give people their medications.'"
Pharmacy combines Filley's interest in science with her desire to help people.
"Without having to do all the blood and everything like that," she says of her decision not to be a doctor or nurse. "I don't like that."
Heavily recruited out of high school, Filley chose to attend a school nearly 500 miles from home.
"When I came to Auburn and I talked to the coaches and I saw everything, I knew Auburn was the place for me," she says. "The coaches were great. I knew I would play really well underneath them. The campus was amazing. Everyone was just like an Auburn family. It really is true. It's an Auburn family, and I could tell that from the beginning."
Like the five-set comebacks she's led on the court, Filley rallied in the classroom as well, says Dr. Peter Livant, who taught Alexa in organic chemistry.
"When her exam grades were not meeting her expectations, she shifted gears and began studying in overdrive," Livant recalls. "It's not easy to play catch-up in organic chemistry - most students can't - but Alexa did it successfully. She had the drive, determination, discipline and intellectual horsepower to pull it off."
So impressed was Livant by Filley's determination, he wrote a letter of recommendation on her behalf.
"He was so awesome," Filley says. "He taught me so much. He was a really good professor."
On pace to graduate from Auburn's four-year pharmacy program in 2021, Filley says the people, and the attitude she experienced on her visit, led her to choose Auburn.
"I am so thankful that I get to be in such a special place," she says. "I have looked all around, and I looked at a lot of schools, but I'm so glad I decided to come to Auburn because this is really the place for me. It's like a second home to me and everyone here is so nice and special."
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer