LANSING | Luther East senior volleyball player Melanie Hudson has a good jump serve, but one would not know it by watching the outside hitter play home games.
If there is one thing that can stop Hudson and her serve, it is the home gymnasium itself; there simply isn't enough space at the end of the courts for Hudson to perform a jump serve.
Such is the life of a big player at a small school. Hudson would not have it any other way. The four-year outside hitter enters her final season of prep volleyball with hopes of advancement -- getting her team further into the Class 1A tournament than it managed last year, and eventually furthering her volleyball play in 2011 at the collegiate level.
Last year, Hudson led the team with 157 kills and 33 service aces. Luther East has won its first seven matches this year, with Hudson once again leading the team in kills and aces.
"She's been an even better player for us this year," Luther East coach Michelle Van Dommelan said. "The extra year of club play has helped her; she is a smarter player, mixing up her shots better and has become more aware on the court."
Luther East lost four of its starters from last year's team that won 13 games and won a postseason volleyball match for the first time in school history. The set-kill combination of Hudson and senior setter Liz Doe step to the forefront this year on a team filled with underclassmen. Hudson relishes the role; as a junior, coach Michelle Van Dommelan said Hudson was a leader on a team full of players a year older.
"She is a natural leader," Van Dommelan said. "Last year, in the regional win, she was serving the ball well and hitting the ball so good that through her play, she picked up the entire team."
Hudson has sharpened her front-court play and her jump serves through club play, first with Diamond Elite and last year with Altitude. She hopes to impart some of her experience to her younger teammates this season.
"During club season, you know what you are doing and what they want," Hudson said. "When I'm on the court, I am talkative, helping the players around me."
Van Dommelan said a few small colleges have shown interest in Hudson, who Van Dommelan believes would be getting much more attention if she played at a bigger school that had a conference affiliation.
"She has great timing on her blocks and a great arm swing," Van Dommelan said. "She is a smart player. She knows the game."