Kristen Michaelis is one of the best volleyball players the Blue Water Area has ever seen.
She accomplished nearly everything imaginable in her outstanding playing career. Now, the 2000 Marysville High School graduate is even surprising herself with the coaching success she is experiencing in her first season at St. Clair County Community College.
The Skippers are exceeding everyone’s expectations and are in position to challenge for a league title and a spot in the Division 2 National Junior College Athletic Association National Tournament.
“I wasn’t really sure what to expect coming into it,” Michaelis said. “They had come into the season with most of the players returning from last year. From Day 1, the girls worked hard and bought into everything. It is harder on the college level to get to 15-0 or 16-0. It’s a totally different culture and attitude with the girls.”
Despite the odds, the Skippers are exceeding all expectations, and in large part, that is due to Michaelis.
“Kristen is such a good coach,” SC4 freshman Miranda Shafer said. “She understands us. If we have questions about the court, she has been there and can show us where to go. We have been working a lot on defense and it is a lot of repetition. She knows the areas we need to work on.
“She gets right out there and plays with us on the second string side. She is right with us out there on the court and it makes a big difference. We learn a lot from her and how she teaches us. I think she sees herself in us and it makes us feel good.”
Michaelis has been in a similar position as the Skippers current players. They each hope to extend their volleyball careers and she would be the perfect person to learn from.
Michaelis finished high school with a 232-1 record as a player while leading the Marysville Vikings to four Class B state championships. She went on to star at Fresno State University and also helped the United States win a bronze medal at the 2007 Pan American Games.
“She is our role model,” SC4 sophomore Sarah Phillips said. “We want to be her. She pushes us to be the best person we can be and to be the best teammate we can be. She gets us fired up.”
Michaelis appears to be adjusting very well to the college game after coaching at Marysville High School. She got off to a great start at her alma mater, but after three seasons, she knew the situation had run its course.
“In college, there are not as many distractions as with high school,” Michaelis said. “When you are getting a scholarship, you are there for school and for volleyball. I think I’m finally able to coach the way I want to coach and the players are good with it.
“I think this is definitely a better fit. The higher level, intensity and expectations are great and it’s less distractions.”
The Skippers weren’t expected to do much this season but got off to a 15-0 start and have continued to improve as the season has progressed.
SC4 (5-1, 27-4) entered Saturday on a four-game winning streak and is ranked No. 18 in the country among Division 2 junior college teams.
“I think the main reason we have had so much success is we have such an amazing coaching staff that expects the best out of us every time we step into this gym,” Phillips said. “That just makes us all want to play for each other and put it all on the court.”
That staff consists of assistant coaches Ray Cornwell Jr., Dan O’Barsky and former Marysville coach Paul Levandowski.
“It’s been a pretty smooth transition because of the coaching staff I have been working with,” Michaelis said. “We are all on the same page. We all have the same goal in mind. We all get along and the girls see that and they build chemistry.
“I think that makes it a lot easier. The more eyes you have the better. The last year I coached high school, it was just me. It has been really helping having them and they make everything much better.”
The Skippers have entered their most important stretch of the season. They are tied atop the Michigan Community College Athletic Association Eastern Conference along with Mott Community College and are now entering the stretch run.
But they also appear to have the confidence to finish the season strong and complete an epic turnaround season.
“We have come back from so many close, close games,” SC4 sophomore Kendall Stoll said. “(Michaelis) always believes in us and we always feel that. It helps us so much.”
Contact Joseph Hayes at (810) 989-6268 or at [email protected] Follow him on twitter @jhayes1136.