Juniors lead Calvin volleyball

by andrea schutter

Associate Sports Editor

After talking to juniors Cassie Christopher and Melissa Pell, it is obvious that their friendship goes beyond the volleyball court. Looking back over their volleyball career, Pell and Christopher remember competing in high school. Both in the same conference, Pell played for Fremont High School, while Christopher competed for Fruitport High School. ``Both Pell and Christopher had experience with high-level competition in high school,'' stated women's volleyball coach Jerry Bergsma. It was a coincidence when they met again at Calvin, this time to join the varsity roster as freshmen for the same team. ``We've been friends ever since we were roommates during preseason,'' said Pell, reminiscing about their first year at Calvin.

Pell, a middle hitter for Calvin, has seen more floor time this year and has a dynamic presence in the front row. She has tallied 182 kills, 56 digs and 48 blocks so far this season. ``Melissa is ready to take on more of a leadership role,'' said Coach Bergsma. ``She is continually positive.''

Outside hitter Cassie Christopher has racked up 180 kills, 192 digs and 18 blocks this season. She is leading the team with kills-per-game and dominating the conference with the highest attack percentage. Christopher has also shown improvement defensively, collecting 37 digs in last week's match against Albion. ``Cassie has shown great flexibility; she has played three different positions over the past three years,'' added Coach Bergsma. ``She belongs on the floor.''

Moving up through varsity together, Pell and Christopher have become two very effective competitors for the Knights. ``They are both hard workers, and they are willing to do whatever is required of them. They are eager to ask questions, and they never complain,'' said Bergsma.

Pell and Christopher agree that for them, this year has been the best so far. They admire their teammates' effort and versatile talent. ``Anyone could come off the bench and play,'' said Pell. Christopher was quick to add, ``Everyone works hard to win games; that's what makes it fun.'' Pell and Christopher team up on the front line as powerful hitters, but they are quick to acknowledge that their achievements are enhanced by the awesome setting ability of senior Sarah Ahrenholz. ``She is an unbelievable setter,'' stated Christopher. ``We're definitely going to miss her next year,'' confirmed Pell.

The Knights have an overall winning record of 12-8 and a conference record of 6-2. Both players are extremely confident in Calvin's ability, but they believe there is room for improvement. ``We're doing well, but we're not playing up to our potential,'' said Pell. The Knights have executed aggressive play on the net and protected their back line with outstanding defense, and along with their teammates, Pell and Christopher continue to persist in enhancing the team's performance. Ready to meet one of Calvin's prime opponents later in the season, they are sure of a victory against Hope College. ``We're going to get `em,'' stated Pell enthusiastically. ``There are no doubts in my mind that we can beat them.''

Christopher and Pell speak very highly of the new Calvin volleyball coaching staff. Coach Bergsma and Assistant Coach Amber Warners are a great support for the Knights. ``Coach Bergsma is awesome,'' said Pell. ``He is fun, personable, and we can talk to him about anything.''

Pell is a secondary education major in math, with a biology minor. Christopher is working toward a K-12 physical education major. They both admit that juggling schoolwork and sports can sometimes be hectic, but with coaches and teammates who are behind them both on and off the court, they're having a great time.