Reed City's Kelsey Jones gearing up for senior year at Eastern Michigan

REED CITY — Kelsey Jones is preparing for her fifth and final season with the Eastern Michigan volleyball program with a true sense of excitement and optimism as the former Reed City athlete gets ready to close her collegiate career.

She is coming off a junior season that included some outstanding performances, while also dealing with some sensitive personal issues.

This fall will mark Jones’ senior season. She redshirted in 2011.

“I’m very excited to be able to play,” she said. “Even though it’s my fifth year and I wasn’t really planning on five years it worked really well because I get to play another year of volleyball.”

A highlight of last season was earning all-tournament team honors at the University of Maryland Baltimore County Maddie Bingham Memorial Invitational.

“It was really great,” Jones said of her junior season. “I started a new position. I was on the right side instead of the middle. Two years ago, I was starting in the middle. So it was just a couple of position changes on the team. I was more useful on the right side. In the middle I was able to block a little more effectively. It was really a great year.”

Eastern Michigan went to the second round of the Mid-American Conference tournament.

“We had a decent season and we have a lot of returning girls,” she said. “This year, I was a little more comfortable being on the court. It was my second season starting. Maybe it wasn’t my best (collegiate season) but it was right up there with my first year of being able to play on the court. Every year keeps getting better.”

She played front row all the way across on the right side and was an impact player.

“I still haven’t been able to get into the back row yet,” Jones said. “But that’s something I’m working on and kind of a goal of mine for next season.”

She fondly remembers a home win over Central Michigan.

“It was a high energy game,” she said. “Central is one of our bigger rivals, too, so coming out and beating them was awesome. We were all playing well, were so focused and ready to beat Central. Everything went right that game.”

Jones also had to endure the season with a heavy heart when her mother Martha Jones died.

“I actually missed two games last season when I came home to be with my family,” she said. “It was really tough. It’s still pretty tough. I miss her a lot. It’s weird not being able to talk with her. I have so much support from family and friends back home and here. It’s definitely been a challenge. It’s something all of my teammates and even the new coaching staff have been supportive of me. They understand and talk to me and make sure I’m OK.

“No one can replace your mom. But having a bunch of other teammates around you, it’s nice to feel comfort from them.”

In her 2013 sophomore season, Jones was in 23 matches, starting 17 of them and led in blocks per set at 1.19 and had career-bests with nine kills in a pair of matches. She also averaged 1.39 kills, 0.04 assists, 0.16 digs, 1.19 blocks and 2.03 points per set.

Jones was a three-sport standout in volleyball, basketball and track at Reed City High School, earning all-Central State Activities Association and Pioneer dream team honors in volleyball and basketball during his career. She was a state qualifier for track as a junior.

Jones is eagerly awaiting the start of the 2015 fall season.

“We went through a coaching change the end of last season,” she said. “It’s been exciting to learn lots of new things. She has different views from the previous coaching staffs. It’s a fresh look of things.”

Eastern’s new volleyball coach Kimi Olson knew what to expect from Jones when she took the job.

“I knew that she was a senior that was looking to win a championship in her fifth year as an Eagle,” Olsen said. “I had heard about her contribution to the program, as she is one of the top three returning point scorers for EMU. On and off the court, Kelsey is a leader and has proven to me that leadership is a priority for her going into her final season.”

Eastern had its final spring tournament in Maumee, Ohio, at Premier Volleyball.

“Kelsey had a great weekend as she helped lead the team to a 10-1 record, including the championship title after going 5-0,” Olson said. “Kelsey led us in blocking including six stuff blocks, and five of them coming against Ashland in the third match. Also, she hit .444 in the match against MAC Conference opponent, Akron.

“My expectations for the fall is that she will help lead our defense at the net blocking, as well as offensively. Kelsey is ready to play any position and her versatility will be a strength for us this fall as we prepare for a creative offensive game plan.”

Olson realizes Jones will be a key part of her 2015 team.

“Since I took the job, Kelsey has been eager to learn the new system, training with new techniques and finding any way possible to score,” Olson said. “Her blocking is a high point and as a team, we are looking to find more ways to get her the ball so she can score. Kelsey is a great teammate and she has high expectations of herself for the fall. I am looking forward to coaching Kelsey in her final season, and I hope we can take this program to new heights together.”

So is Jones.

“I think we can make it to the NCAA tournament,” she said. “That’s our big goal. Under Kimi and our new coaching staff, she’s been pushing that. A lot of MAC teams, your big goal is to win the MAC tournament. That’s our goal too but we want to look past that also...we want to get into the NCAA tournament. Our team this year definitely could do it. We have six seniors coming back.”

Olson has been impressed with Jones’ ability to focus.

“She is able to put all distractions aside and just play,” Olson said. “I think she will be a great leader for the younger players that are joining the program. I know she will be a great mentor as well as player in her fifth season.

“Kelsey is an awesome person and I know she will succeed at anything she does.”