Sophomore Michelle Simmons traveled more than 2,800 miles across the country to attend Plattsburgh State for volleyball. Now in her second year, the middle blocker has settled into her role.
The Riverside, California, native initially picked up the sport competitively after an annual teachers-versus-students volleyball competition in sixth grade.
“That year, the students ended up winning,” Simmons said. “One of the teachers we were playing against came up to my mom and was like, ‘Hey, you should really get her into volleyball,’ and that’s what really started it.”
Simmons, seven years later, is passionate about the sport more than ever and said she stuck with volleyball for her teammates.
“Working with other people, being able to help each other out, I just love the whole team aspect of it,” Simmons said.
In high school, Simmons had no intention on heading for the east coast.
“I had honestly no idea Plattsburgh even existed,” Simmons said. “The farthest I was looking toward the east was Texas.”
PSUC’s coaching staff first saw Simmons play in the Las Vegas Classic as a part of the Southern California Volleyball Association.
“Michelle is a tremendous athlete,” head coach Matt Lein said. “Between her athleticism, passion for the game and the high energy she brings for her team, there was a lot we really enjoyed.”
Before she even committed to attending PSUC, the coaching staff wanted Simmons to visit the campus to get a feel for both the school and area.
“We didn’t think she was going to [commit],” Theresa Simmons, Michelle’s mother, said. “Especially when we did the visit and there was two feet of snow on the ground.”
Simmons’ parents had some concern with her moving so far away, but remained supportive.
“Honestly, I didn’t want her to go that far,” Dan Simmons, Michelle’s father, said, “but if it was something she really wanted to do, I was willing to let her.”
With being so far away from home and experiencing such different weather, Lein has noted how difficult it has been to retain out-of-state recruits.
“It’s important for them the see themselves here for four years and not just on a volleyball court,” Lein said.
But with Michelle Simmons, they didn’t anticipate much of an issue.
“She committed before we even picked her up,” Theresa Simmons said.
Moving away from home was a big draw for Michelle Simmons.
“I wanted to experience new things for myself and become more independent,” Michelle SImmons said. “And also to expand my horizon on things like experiencing different people, and different weather, because in California, we only have one weather; it’s either hot, hot or hot.”
Lein was away from the team for Simmons’ freshman year, but still made time to watch the team play. He observed that she struggled some in her first year but has begun to thrive since solidifying herself in the middle blocker position this year.
Simmons’ improvement has been recognized by the SUNYAC conference after recently being awarded defensive athlete of the week.
Volleyball has brought Michelle Simmons across the country, and in Plattsburgh she has become a leader on the court.
Email Fernando Alba at email@example.com