For four years, three Truman High School sports programs had a saying that could be heard ringing through the hallways of the school: “You gotta have Hart.”
Lext Hart was an All-American volleyball standout who won Evelyn Gates Award as the metro area’s top player, a three-year starter in basketball (she did not play her senior year) and a state long jump champion.
Now, after just one year of playing volleyball at the University of Minnesota, the Golden Gophers are uttering the same slogan as the 2016 Truman graduate is enjoying the same type of success in the Division I sport that she did with the Patriots.
Playing on the front row for the Gophers as a freshman, Hart saw action in 34 matches and became one of the Gophers' top outside hitters, helping lead them to a 29-5 record and the NCAA national semifinals before falling to Stanford in the Final Four in Columbus, Ohio.
With the graduation of American Volleyball Coaches Association National Player of the Year Sarah Wilhite, Hart will be the veteran among the outside hitters, even though she is just a sophomore. She was second on the team behind Wilhite with 2.85 kills per set, knocking down a total of 359 kills on a .242 attack percentage.
That is a challenge the AVCA North Region Freshman of the Year is ready to meet head on.
“I can’t wait for the season to begin,” Hart said by phone from Minneapolis as the Gophers prepare for the season opener Aug. 25 against North Carolina in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge in Madison, Wisconsin. “It’s all so crazy. I can’t believe my freshman year is over and that the team and I had that much success. I feel like I just graduated from high school and I’m already a sophomore in college and they’re going to expect a lot from me and I’m ready to do everything I can to make our team successful.”
As a freshman at Minnesota, Hart was nothing short of a phenom.
Along with being the AVCA North Region Freshman of the Year, she earned AVCA All-America honorable mention status, earned a berth on the Freshman All-Big Ten team, ranked second on the team in kills, kills per set and attempts (945), played in all 34 matches and 126 sets as a rookie and had 14 kills in her first collegiate match against San Diego.
She also earned back-to-back Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors after her performance against ranked opponents at the Puerto Rico Classic and finished with 15 kills over the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament and 21 kills during the NCAA Regional.
When asked about those lofty achievements, she just chuckled.
“I feel about college ball the same I did at Truman,” said Hart, an AVCA Under Armour First Team All-American and the only junior to ever win the Evelyn Gates Award with the Patriots. “All I want to do is win, and I am having so much fun at Minnesota. I love my teammates and my coaches and every night is a big challenge. We’re just one big, happy family here.”
That was never more evident than the night she received the news that her grandfather, and No. 1 fan, Richard Robinson had passed away.
For her brilliant four-year career at Truman, Grandpa Robinson could be seen sitting quietly in the southwest corner of the Truman gymnasium, cheering for “my Lexi.”
“We were on the road in Illinois, and I got the news and none of my family could come be with me,” she said softly. “But I had my Minnesota family with me and that meant so much to me. I’ve never felt closer to any of my teammates than I did that night. I always knew I made the right decision to play at Minnesota, but I really knew it that night.
“I’m going to miss my Grandpa, but I know he’ll be with me everywhere I go.”