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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Two At The Top: MC and Mel

Today's entry shines the spotlight on two familiar names. If you walk around campus this time of year you are sure to see the strategically placed Fall sports posters. There is one on a notice board between Steen Hall and the Cafeteria. Another is posted at the bus stop in Lot 14 behind the library. I believe there may be others. But, if you see one - you'll see a collage of photos - various sports being represented. Our two seniors are among them. MC in an attacking pose and Mel in defensive position with platform established about to dig a ball. They are each appropriate shots and ones that have been used in SFA literature here and there. I think I have a copy of each picture somewhere on the laptop I am currently typing on. I'll spice up this post with pictures other than those.

When it comes to MC, we've all been spoiled. Outside Hitters? We've had some, we've gone a few years with lean production, we've got some new ones that excite and give promise. But still, a lot of unknown. Libero? We've had Kuepker - and then Lo got hurt. We've had Maddie - and then Maddie got hurt. Now, Maddie is well, but this position has been stable in only bits and pieces. Right Side? Lots of activity and shifting there over the last few seasons. Setter? Don't get me started. I've learned that you shouldn't assume today's setter is tomorrow's. I listen - politely - when staff and such begin to talk setters and the "future". But, it's talk. And we all know the cost of talk.

But, middle blocker? Particularly, the position we call the "M1"? There's only one sentence you need to know: "At Middle Blocker, a 6 Foot Senior, #1.. M.C. Bottles". Every home game. Every lineup. The first one out of my mouth. All. The. Time.

This team has a lot of good players. This team has a lot of players that could be good players. This team may even have a few players that could be stars. Let's be clear: This team has one star. It's Bottles. She is rightfully the face of this team. She deserves - and commands - respect. The question is only where she will fit among the many great middles that SFA has suited up. She is among the best and she's the first name opposing coaches talk about when going over SFA scouting reports. I'm not making that up. I talk to these coaches. They talk about her.

I don't want to stir up any controversy because after all, this post is to celebrate our two seniors for 2011. But, I'm going to lay it out there: Melissa Miksch is under appreciated, under utilized and underrated. She's garnered a decent amount of playing time during her time at SFA, but I think she's deserved more. We've experimented in places and at times where Miksch has deserved to just play it out and work through a few things. It's just my opinion and I'll just leave it at that.

We've been through all this before, but let's say it again. Melissa Miksch is an athlete and you're not. She is always in great shape and is the poster child for conditioning and strength. She is versatile and can play basically anywhere. See, most players you can put in a box. Put her in the "middle" box or put her in the "DS" box. Mel can't be put in a box. OH? Yes? Libero? Yes. Back row? Yes. More than three rotation capability? Yes. (Oops, I said I'd leave it at that). She's a volleyball player. She's got legitimate ability all over the court.

The following interview is brought to you courtesy of Chipotle Restaurants.

SFAVolleyBlog: Mel, we have only two seniors on this team this year. In what ways do you intend to be a leader both ON and OFF the court? What type of leadership style fits you best?

Mel: I intend to be a leader this year in various ways. I believe that becoming good friends and being more comfortable with everyone can add good chemistry in a team. MC and I want to be the best senior leaders as possible this year in order to win that ring at the end of the season. We both expect everyone to do their job with 100% effort every time they step out on the court. I do believe that I have become more of a vocal leader on the court, but I am also a leader by example. Whether it is in the weight room or in Shelton the girls can watch me and see what they can build up to and learn from the way I play. I have played every position except for middle, so it is easy for me to relate to any of the positions.

SFAVolleyBlog: MC, any time a team experiences a down season like we did in 2010, there are sure to be changes the year following. What do you think will be the one biggest difference between the team last year and the team in 2011?

MC: This year I believe that the biggest difference is the depth of our team. We have 16 girls on our roster this season and that’s the most girls we have had on our team since I have been here. Along with the depth I also think this is the most competitive group we have had. No practice goes by without any trash talking or multiple arguments about a call!

SFAVolleyBlog: So, with those 16 girls on the club this year and many of them new, what is the biggest piece of advice that you could give the new players about the rigors of college volleyball? What’s the one thing you hope they learn the quickest in order to create the biggest opportunity for success?

MC: When given the opportunity to play you have to step up and do your job or you won't get that playing time that everyone wants. I didn’t start for the first 4 or 5 games as a freshman but once given the opportunity I proved that I should be on the court. You have to take advantage of those opportunities!! Also, to be successful you have to be a mentally stable and a consistent player.

SFAVolleyBlog: Mel, when you finish your Senior season, do you see yourself involved in volleyball in some way after college or do you think the memories will be enough and you’ll begin to put the game behind you as you transition to other phases in life?

Mel: I will definitely miss the game of volleyball and working out with the team after this season is over. It will be a hard transition, because I have been playing volleyball since I was in 5th grade. I do not see myself coaching volleyball later in life, but I will for sure step in to play a game of volleyball whenever the opportunity arises.

SFAVolleyBlog: MC, many of your teammates regularly engage in social media sites like Facebook. But, you in particular are an active poster and commenter. With all the stories in the media about athletes engaging in Facebook/Twitter, has the need to watch what one posts in open forum ever come up in team discussions? What is your thought about social media sites and the responsibility (if any) an athlete has when using them?

MC: As an athlete you're always in the spotlight. As a team I don't think we have any issues with Facebook or Twitter. Sometimes I think people are a bit harsh on athletes, but we do represent SFA and at the end of the day we have to be responsible for our actions. I think Facebook is a great way to keep up with old friends from high school and club!

SFAVolleyBlog: Mel, are/were your parents or siblings athletes? In all honesty, who is the best athlete in the family?
Mel: My family is very athletic. My Dad ran track in high school and then went to Blinn on a track scholarship. My Mom was a cheerleader in high school. My brother played basketball in high school. I followed in my sister’s footsteps the most. She played volleyball in middle school, high school and in college. She went to Marist College in Poughkeepsie, NY. We even had the same high school coach (Jason Landers), so we always make the comment that he had to coach a “Miksch” for 8 years! My family (especially me and my sister) always discuss who is the best athlete in the family, and we always ends up agreeing that I am.

SFAVolleyBlog: Senior night this year will honor just the two of you. Tell me one thing about the other one that you’ll always remember. What part of the others' game do you most admire? And finally, what’s one thing about the other that you think few readers would know ?

MC: My favorite memory actually happened this summer. It was the night of my 21st birthday and were driving through my neighborhood and drove past a party. While were driving past, Mel tells me that I should yell “ It’s your &%$#@! birthday!!” It was hilarious! I was not expecting her to yell that out like that, but it was the funniest thing I have heard her say! For people who don’t know Mel she seems like she’s quiet but she’s not! I love Mel and I really admire her for stepping up last season and filling our libero position. She was amazing and still is! Also her ability to be a solid 6 rotation player is something that I will always admire! [Ed. Note: Agreed, but remember, I am not bringing it up again].

Mel: There are so many things about MC that it is hard to pick just one thing, but if I had to pick one it would be her competitive nature. She would be willing to do whatever it takes to win a game. I believe that is why she has been so successful since her freshman year. One thing about MC’s game that I admire the most is her ability to see the court on the other side and mix up her shots. Something I know about her that others might not know is that she loves Chipotle and that she will have it at her wedding! [Ed. Note: How could you not know MC loves Chipotle? Seriously. The wedding part, though? That's good stuff right there]

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Many thanks to both Mel and MC for their great responses to my questions. I want to pass along something else about these two seniors. I occasionally, like in these interviews, contact players and others via email or Facebook in order to ask questions. These two are ALWAYS prompt, courteous and seem to "get it" when it comes to dealing with auxiliary personnel like me.

There are times when I wait a long time for responses and I get it. I really do. These girls are busy and they really don't have an obligation to me. But, these two seniors have figured it out. They know how to respond in a professional and prompt way to requests such as interviews and people trying to solicit information. It speaks well to their character. It speaks well to their leadership and it speaks well to how they were raised. People in my "on the perimeter" position notice this sort of stuff because we recognize that WE are NOT integral to the team, but the players are. When those integral to the club deal positively with those of us in the shadows it reveals a level of maturity that is elevated above the norm. That shouldn't go unmentioned in regards to these two.

The home slate begins on Friday night as we get the official first match back in Shelton Gym underway at 6 PM. I'll admit to being really curious as to how everything is going to look and sound. On Thursday, I'll briefly breakdown the recent road trip and we'll also look forward to our final veteran interviews that will feature Madison Hanlan, Sabrina Burns and Allison Gideon. In coming days we will have more audio interviews posted and I'll also begin a new audio feature that kicks off in 2011 that I'll call "SLC5". Our main focus here at the blog is always on Ladyjack Volleyball, but SLC5 will be a weekly segment that takes a quick tour around the entire Southland Conference. It is my hope that you'll enjoy that post each week as we near conference play. In addition to starting up SLC5, it is my intent to expand my coverage of the conference by posting interviews with other players and coaches from around the league. When Sam Houston comes to town in another week, we may get a chance to see how that works.

As always, we are "SFA's Strongest Presence on the 'Net" and we've got both SFA and Southland Volleyball in focus in a unique way that you really can't get anywhere else. I told you last month that 2011 was going to be furious - you'll want to check back here a couple times a week to what new we've got in mind for feeding your volleyball brain!

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