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Volleyball duo finds friendship through love of volleyball
By Ross Weener
Melissa Pell

In high school Melissa Pell and Cassie Christopher were on opposite sides of the court—literally. Pell prepped at Fremont High School, while Christopher attended Fruitport—both local rivals. Each played the middle-hitter position and this only emulated the rivalry. Although Christopher's Trojans escaped with most of the victories Pell says it was her fierce competitiveness that "drove her to always play Fruitport tough."

That same competitiveness was what brought the duo to Calvin. Each wanted to win, and each knew that Calvin was a place where they could chase their dreams of winning both on the court and in the classroom. It was on the volleyball court where these two high school rivals melted down their icy demeanor, and began to build a friendship that has weathered a few hardships along the way.

Pell, the youngest of three children, came to volleyball by process of elimination. According to Pell, the decision came down to either playing volleyball or joining the cheerleading team. For Pell, who describes herself as, "not the cheerleading type" the decision was practical and easy. When she began high school as a freshman she was only 5'6" and slated to play the setter/defensive specialist position. It was not until her senior year, and after a growth spurt, that Pell moved up to middle-hitter.

Cassie Christopher

Christopher, a middle child, almost didn't play volleyball in college. A multi-sport athlete in high school she played soccer in the spring and volleyball in the winter. Volleyball and soccer share the same fall seasons at the collegiate level, so Christopher was forced to make a choice before attending Calvin. "If it were not for my high school coach, Dan Potts, I would not be playing volleyball today. In tenth grade I told everyone I was going to quit, and he came to me and convinced me to play." Christopher who has played every position in the front row, now occupies the spot of left side hitter for the Knights. According to her it is that variety that makes her so dangerous. "You develop different skills at each position and you take those with you where ever you go. Now I am able to utilize those skills at the outside hitter spot."

The road to success for this dynamic duo has not been without its apparent bumps. One of those bumps for both of these talented players was the amount of playing time they received during their first year of college. After very successful high school careers it came as a surprise to Pell and Christopher to find them sitting on the bench for the majority of the season. This experience only made them stronger and helped them appreciate the game more.

"Sitting the bench was one of the hardest things I have ever gone through," says Pell. "It makes you appreciate the playing time you have now."

"Because you have been there it makes it easier to relate to those struggling with sitting the bench," says Christopher, a co-captain. "It also helps you appreciate the cheering and encouragement they offer."

Both players have since received plenty of playing time and made the most of the opportunity. As a sophomore in 2000, Pell was named to the All-MIAA 2nd team. She stepped up her play another notch in 2001 as she led the MIAA in blocks-per-game and was named to the All-MIAA 1st team. As a senior, Pell has already received MIAA Player of the Week honors once and leads Calvin in kills-per-game. Christopher was an All-MIAA 2nd team selection in 2001 and is in her third year as a starter. Over the last three years, she has been among the team leaders in kills, digs and service aces-per-game.

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