Oct. 10, 2012
Vanderbilt's soccer team is a group of fighters.
Want proof? Look no further than their record. So far, the Commodores are 5-5-5 on the season. That's right: Vanderbilt has as many draws this fall as they do wins and losses. Three out of those five draws have resulted from come-from-behind goals.
The Commodores are also quickly becoming a comeback story as well; with five regular season games and the SEC Tournament remaining, they are on track to significantly better their 8-11 record last season.
A cornerstone in this fight is goalkeeper Alexa Levick, who is a comeback story in her own right.
"I'm really happy with my performance so far this season," says Levick, a redshirt sophomore. "There are always bits and pieces that you want to fix, and you can't always be perfect. You always wish you could save that one extra ball, but overall I've been pretty satisfied."
She has every right to be satisfied. So far this season, Levick has 85 saves, averaging 5.7 per game. Her solid performance has come on the heels of a 2011 season that was cut short due to a concussion suffered in the team's fourth game at South Florida.
After a comeback attempt seven games later, she encountered some setbacks in her recovery and returned to the sideline for the remainder of the season.
In 2010, Levick made the travel roster but didn't see any game action, redshirting instead.
"Missing most of last season was hard. It was a mental battle more than anything else. I don't know if it was so much the concussion or if it had to do with not playing my first year. It was a learning experience," says Levick.
Looking at the past seven games, it's safe to say that learning experience was a success.
On September 14, Levick tallied a career-high 13 saves in a 0-0 draw with Georgia. Since then, she has had three more double-digit save performances, all against SEC opponents: 11 against both Missouri and Alabama and 12 in last week's overtime victory at Arkansas.
"Having sat last year and the year before that, I'm ready to go," she asserts. "I'm just that much more anxious and ready to play each and every game."
Levick, originally from Wyoming, Ohio, credits spring ball as playing a large role in both her physical and mental recovery.
"I had forgotten what it felt like to play in games that counted," Levick says. "I was just so ready. I was flying around, calling everything. Last spring was good because I was able to overcome some fears. Every now and then, it still gets me when I see a collision coming, but in the moment I'm just going."
She's also embraced her role as one of the Commodores' cornerstones, learning to lead both on and off the field.
"I did the best I could last season to switch from being a leader on the field to being a leader on the sideline, even though I didn't travel much. This season, we're a young team, and I know I need to take control in goal."
Vanderbilt will continue the regular season with four straight home SEC matches, including Ole Miss at 7 p.m. Friday and No. 9 Texas A&M at 1 p.m. Sunday. The Commodores then host Auburn and No. 15 Florida before closing the regular season at Kentucky on Oct. 25. The SEC Tournament will then begin four days later in Orange Beach, Ala.
This stretch is the crux for the Commodores to prove just how big their comeback story will be, and Levick is confident.
"The biggest difference between this year and last year is the energy level. Everyone always wants to be there, and we're playing well as a team. It starts with the coaches, but it's also a change in mentality in the locker room. We're all pumped to be here every single day."