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More than just teammates

In freshman Chelsey Meek and sophomore Elizabeth Simon, the Bowling Green Falcons have two players who bring more than just different strengths to the volleyball team.

They have childhood friends, former club volleyball teammates and a duo that brings with them a following which extends out into the community from their playing days at Bowling Green High School.

“I’ve never had two BG kids in the history of this program,” said Denise Van De Walle, who is in her 23rd season as the Falcons coach. “It’s wonderful to have players on the team from the area, because it increases the fan base and the excitement about what’s going on.

“This is a situation now where we have two local players who are both very good and – I like it,” she continued. “Chelsey and Simon are both great kids from top to bottom. Their work ethic on the court is awesome, their academic background is terrific.”

Before the two could ever reunite, Meek had to choose to continue her volleyball career at either BG or defending Mid-American Conference Champion, Ohio.

According to Simon, a freshman for the Falcons at the time, the decision wasn’t easy for Meek.

“She came up to me and she was like ‘I don’t know what to do’,” Simon said. “I just told her ‘It’s something you have to decide. It’d be great to play with you – But you have to go somewhere where you’re going to be comfortable and you’re going to enjoy it.'”

Meek, 18, acknowledges that Simon’s advice had a big impact on her, but said other factor’s also played a role in the final decision.

“I felt really comfortable being around the girls, and a big reason why I decided to come to Bowling Green was the chemistry I had with the girls,” Meek said.

Ironically, chemistry is something Meek and Simon both shared growing up in Bowling Green.

Both had an interest in other sports prior to being introduced to volleyball for the first time in the backyard of Simon’s home as sixth and seventh graders.

“I played soccer with her [Simon] younger sister Christine, and she and I were like ‘Let’s just give it a try’,” Meek said.

“I was all about basketball, until I got to high school and developed a passion for volleyball.”

Once Meek arrived at BGHS, Simon was already playing on varsity, but said it was beneficial having someone there she could look up to.

“We had combined practices sometimes,” Meek said. “We had Big Sis’ and Little Sis’ programs in high school, and she was my Big Sis’. We were very supportive of one another.”

The two didn’t get the chance to play with one another in high school until Simon’s senior season, when they finished second in the league.

Simon recalls a lot of good memories from her final year at BGHS.

“I just remember it being a lot of fun,” she said. “You’re playing with your best friends that you’ve known since kindergarten, and the whole community comes to watch.”

The second-place finish served as motivation for Meek during her senior season and helped led the Bobcats to a league title.

Meek and Simon agreed their bond developed even more last year through attending one another’s games to give support, despite one being in high school and the other in college.

Throughout this season Van De Walle said it has been difficult to get Meek and Simon on the floor at the same time, because they play similar positions.

Nevertheless, both said they have continued to grow closer despite playing together sparingly.

Meek, a 5-foot-5 libero, has played in all 28 matches for the Falcons averaging a team-high 4.24 digs per game. Simon, a 5-foot-7 left-side hitter and defensive specialist, has appeared in 14 matches this season.

“It’s nice having Elizabeth here, because she also plays my position and it’s just nice talking to here and learning things from her, because she was in my shoes last year,” Meek said.

“I think I could talk to her about pretty much anything and we talk about everything,” Simon said. “When you come into a sport you’re faced with a lot of things. You’re no longer the best on the team, because everybody else is just as good as you.

“Not only that, but just getting used to college life is hard sometimes and it’s nice to have someone here to just reassure you that everybody does go through this or that.”

BG sophomore Stephanie Swiger said it’s nice to have Meek and Simon, because they have played together for so long – including five years of club volleyball.

“They’re two great players and it’s just very convenient that they’re from the town that this university is in,” said Swiger, who played with Meek and Simon for the Premier Volleyball Club coached by current BG assistant Sean Huiet.

“It’s always nice to pull in people from the town. They having a following from Bowling Green High School, and it’s always nice to bring in those people.”

Van De Walle said she is excited about having Meek and Simon for the next few years together.

“It’s been nice,” she said. “They seem to be very good friends. They’re very easy to coach. I love having them on the team.”

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