Former Reed City volleyball standout preparing for junior season at Eastern Michigan

YPSILANTI — Spring time for volleyball players is a critical period for them to stay in shape and get ready for the fall season.

It’s even a more critical time this season for Reed City’s Kelsey Jones. After two collegiate seasons, Jones is focusing on her junior campaign. But she’s coming off an abbreviated sophomore season when an eye injury cut her fall campaign short.

“I started the season really well,” Jones said. “I was starting middle a couple of weeks into our MAC tournament, I got injured and was out for the rest of the season. It came during our Toledo weekend, our second weekend in MAC play. It kind of stunk.”

Jones was hit with a ball in the left eye, which filled up with blood.

“I had to rest it then and take it easy,” she said. “We were doing practice drills, our assistant coach was hitting at us and I was blocking. I threw my hands at a wrong angle and it hit me right in the face. It was a rare thing to happen. it was crazy to see.”

She was really playing well and becoming a force at the net,” said Eastern coach Kim Berrington. “So, it was really disappointing to lose her. Kelsey is our biggest blocker and she is becoming our best all-round blocker very quickly. It doesn’t matter where the set is along the net, she has the ability to go get the ball at a pretty high plane. She is quick laterally, and plays high…it’s a great combination.”

Jones was redshirted in 2011 and made her collegiate debut in 2012. She saw action in 22 matches and started one of them. She spent most of her time as a blocker. Jones was a three-sport standout in volleyball, basketball and track at Reed City, and earned Central State Activities Conference first-team honors as a junior and senior. She led the team in kills and hitting percentage.

“It certainly will be crucial for us to have her back on the court this fall. We expect her to have a break-out season,” Berrington said. “Kelsey will be our big blocker that we will be able to match up on any opponent. She can play in the middle or she can be a huge blocker on the right side shutting down our opponents primary outside attacker. It will be nice to have the flexibility to move her around as needed.”

As a collegiate sophomore, Jones was excited about the season and admitted being deeply frustrated with the eye injury.

“What really helped me stay focused on preparing for the next season, I still ended up fifth in the MAC for blocking,” Jones said. “That was really cool. At one point, I was 25th in the nation in blocking. That was really a nice accomplishment even through an injury.”

“Her attacking has been improving steadily,” Berrington said. “She is capable of the big kill, but also she has learned to make the finesse shot as well. She has learned to manage her swings by making better decisions very quickly. We need more offense, and it would be a big boost to the team if we could depend on Kelsey to have 10-plus kills every match.

“Kelsey is very coachable. She is a great listener and tries to do exactly what we ask her to do. She always knows the game plan and volleyball IQ has improved tremendously. These things make her a joy to coach and are making her a better player each week.”

Her role as a sophomore had changed from her freshman season, Jones noted.

“I had more of a playing role and was little more comfortable with the coaches,” Jones said. “I took more of a leadership role. I was able to help the other coaches more and know what the coaches were expecting of the other girls.”

Jones and her teammates have started with their spring season in mid-February.

“We’ve been practicing every day, lifting weights and doing all of our spring training stuff,” Jones said. “That’s been going really well. I’m excited for next year.”

Jones said Eastern’s Mid-American Conference season “was kind of slower than I had anticipated. But we ended up at the MAC tournament and made it to the finals where we lost to Ohio. So overall, we ended the season, very well.”

Her focus now is on 2014.

“I would really like to get my starting spot back,” Jones said. “I really want to focus on getting better at whatever position I might be put into, doing well and benefitting the team and being an impact player.”

Jones wants to be a “positive influence and inspiration” on the court.

She is a great leader,” Berrington said. “She is so positive in every situation. She is the voice of reason and the voice of genuine excitement. Her teammates love playing with her and feed off of her energy. This past season when she was injured and not on the court, she continued to help her teammates while she was on the bench. She has so much enthusiasm for the game and for everyone around her.”

Eastern will have seven players returning as juniors in 2014.

“We’ll have two seniors and a couple of girls who stared as freshmen,” Jones said. “We have two new recruits. I think we’re going to have a great team. We have a lot of returning players.”

Berrington will always fondly remember how Jones handled her eye injury.

“She made a difference on the bench, which not many kids can do,” Berrington said. “But I want to see her make a huge contribution on the court this year.”