Monday, October 19, 2020

These two freshman volleyball players' friendship didn't start at MSU

September 14, 2017
Freshman defensive specialist Jamye Cox (4) and senior outside hitter Holly Tolliver (18) go after a ball during the game against Corpus Christi. The Spartans defeated the Islanders, 3-0.
Freshman defensive specialist Jamye Cox (4) and senior outside hitter Holly Tolliver (18) go after a ball during the game against Corpus Christi. The Spartans defeated the Islanders, 3-0. —
Photo by Matt Schmucker | The State News

The transition from high school to college is not easy. The campuses are larger, the classes are longer, and the workload is heavier.

For the typical college freshman just entering, already having a friend in the same boat as you can go a long way towards facilitating the transition to the classroom.

For freshmen MSU volleyball players Jamye Cox and Meredith Norris, it facilitates their transition to the court.

Cox and Norris knew each other prior to coming to MSU through club volleyball, as they played together for Michigan Elite Volleyball Academy, one of the largest and most successful clubs in Michigan.

For Norris, Michigan Elite is essentially a second home; the homegrown outside hitter from Owosso started playing for Michigan Elite at just 12-years-old.

“They just really developed me as a player and a person in the volleyball world,” Norris said. “They were very caring and they always helped me to get better, so they were really good people.” 

Norris came in to Michigan Elite with an instant dedication to the program that was noticeable to the coaches.

“Right from the get-go you knew there was something with this kid, she was just an outstanding player,” Neil Rucinski, Michigan Elite Volleyball tournament director said.

Norris had a clear devotion to volleyball and Michigan Elite – accumulating numerous awards including being named both a PrepVolleyball High School All-American and a MaxPrep High School All-American in 2016 – but made commitments to other important aspects of her life as well, said Vince Muscat, her former coach and current Michigan Elite Volleyball club director.

“During her 15’s year she took the task of playing basketball, travel volleyball, and most importantly excelling in the classroom,” Muscat said via an email conversation. “That season showed me that she was going to be something special.”

Cox joined Michigan Elite for the 2015-16 season, her lone season with the club; while the libero’s tenure there was short in comparison to her Spartan teammate, her presence on the team was definitely felt.

“I can't tell you the difference between a practice and a game, she came to practice and suited up with the same focus and same drive all the way through,” Rucinski said. “The kid has a no quit, no fear attitude.” 

Cox – a 2016 USA Today and MaxPreps high school pre-season All-American – noted that the atmosphere at Michigan elite felt more competitive in comparison to other clubs she played for in previous years, and while it took some adjusting to, it had its benefits.

“It has definitely helped me be more prepared for Michigan State and the practices we go through,” Cox said. 

The club’s raised level of competition assisted Norris transition to collegiate volleyball as well, as she, too, harped on the rigorous training required of a Michigan Elite volleyball player.

“They definitely prepared me a lot because they had very intense practices and their coaching and techniques are very similar to what Cathy, the head coach does here,” Norris said. 

Norris has strong family ties to MSU. Her father, Dr. Robert Norris, is a graduate of the MSU College of Human Medicine and team physician for the MSU athletic department, while her mother, Nicole, attended MSU for her graduate degree and is the athletic director at Corunna High School.

While Michigan Elite is a top volleyball club in the state and is a viable option for aspiring college volleyball players, just competing in club volleyball in general is a smart alternative for players hoping to reach the collegiate level.

Michigan Elite Volleyball’s class of 2017 featured 37 players that committed to a college or university, while just seven players from the class remained uncommitted.

“It’s D1 volleyball with some of these tournaments that we go to, and you are seeing some of the greatest players out there,” Rucinski said. 

Recruiting plays a big role in the importance of club volleyball as well, Rucinski added, as it improves players’ chances of getting noticed by schools.

“Coaches like videos but they do want to see them in person,” Rucinski said. “It gives opportunities for kids to shine, get seen easily, and more importantly it’s just high competitive play.” 

Already being exposed to intense competition and having a familiarity with each other due to their time together at Michigan Elite made life a lot simpler for Cox and Norris when they transitioned into playing college volleyball.

“It made it more comfortable on the court having a familiar face,” Cox said. “We worked together to get comfortable with other players, so it wasn’t like we were on our own, we did it together and it just made everything so much easier.” 

While the two teammates have contrasting personalities off the court, they are able to mesh well on the court due to their established relationship.

“We are two different people but when we work together it just works,” Cox said. I’m very hardheaded and she’s very calm, so if I have a bad day she would just calm me down and say ‘Hey, let’s go!’” 

The two Spartans will look to continue to build on their chemistry with the rest of their squad as their stellar season progresses; the MSU Women’s volleyball team is 5-1 on the season, with all of their victories being sweeps.

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