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Former Syracuse Orange player finds home in Falcon volleyball uniform

Each and every year collegiate athletic teams gain new players, whether it is from new freshmen coming into the program, or the occasional transfer student moving to get a different change of scenery.

Nevertheless, coaches and players move on and adapt to their new way of life trying to get a fresh start, a chance of redemption or an opportunity to showcase their talents.

This is what Syracuse Orange volleyball transfer Kelsey Bates wanted, a chance to start anew and become a part of a family that would allow her to step up and make a statement. She found that home with the Falcons.

“There was a coaching change [at Syracuse] and I didn’t think I was a good fit for that coaching change,” said senior Kelsey Bates. “So I started the recruiting process again. I got a hold of [head coach Danijela] Tomic, and I sent her one of my videos. She wanted me to take an official visit, and then she offered me.”

Before Bates arrived in BG, she attended Holds Parkway High School in Ohio, where she has the school record with a 47.1 attack percentage, totaling over 300 kills and 68 solo blocks as a senior.

While she also garnered third team All-Ohio Division III in 2010 and received first team All-MAC and District 8 All-Star as both a junior and senior.

Bates then walked on the campus of the Syracuse University where she played one year of volleyball getting action in six matches, recording four blocks, a kill, and a dig.

With the little playing time and a new change in the coaching regime in her first year, Bates decided it was time to go somewhere that she could help; somewhere that she was able to unleash her talent and be the star cog for the team.

“Right away I always noticed that Kelsey had a lot of raw talent,” said senior Erica Fullenkamp. “She was really built, she was strong, she was a hard worker and was always willing to learn. She had all the pieces there, it was just going to take a great coach to put the pieces together for her and make her into the player that she has become today.”

As Bates started going through the transfer process at BG, she started to see her role slowly expand as she earned both the players’ and coaches’ trust.

“We liked her athleticism and just how strong she was,” said coach Tomic. “She was running a really good slide for a middle hitter, so we had a scholarship available and we thought she would be a good fit. We offered her a scholarship and she accepted it.”

In her first year with the Falcons in 2012, Bates played in seven matches, gathering seven kills and four blocks. That season she played a crucial part in the Mid-American Conference Tournament Championship match, recording career highs with six kills and three blocks.

Kelsey was starting to blossom into the player that she knew should could be— one that allowed her to be more of a key contributor to the team.

”I was a lot more confident because of coach Tomic and what she put me through in the first two years I was here,” Bates said. “That helped with my confidence because I knew they were confident in me.”

As time rolled along, Bates started to assert herself as one of the top players on the team showcasing her talent and becoming one of the more dominant players on the team.

So she wasted no time in the 2013 campaign as she had a breakout season, playing in 27 matches and starting 21 times while being one of six players with at least 100 kills and hitting a team-high .245 percent.

Additionally, Bates was third on the team with 69 blocks and second with 0.82 per set and averaging 10 kills four times, posting a record high 13 at Buffalo late in the year. She posted at least five blocks in six different matches and had a career-best six blocks in an upset victory over 13th ranked BYU.

Bates was now becoming a centerpiece for the team as teammates and coaches looked to her as a vital asset to helping them win.

“Kelsey really put in a lot of hard work and time and dedication into her volleyball skills,” Fullenkamp said. ”She spent a lot of time in the gym and watching film, which is what really put her over the edge.”

Even with the new title, and the new found glory, Bates was one to put the team first rather than herself, as it took more than just one person to claim a victory.

“In volleyball you can’t be selfish,” Bates said. “There are three contacts on the court and you have to have confidence in your team and know they can do it while making it easier on them.”

Tomic also saw a bright spot in Bates’ game as she continued to impress her even more with her determination and effort she showed over time.

“She has blossomed as a leader, as a player, she plays with confidence. Her teammates love playing with her. She is mentoring our younger kids, that’s all you want in a senior,” Tomic said. “She is one of those coaching success stories and she is an example of why coaches do what they do.”

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