Freshman seasons seldom get any better than the one Kelsey Lace enjoyed at The College of Saint Rose.
The Glendale resident and 2012 Mount St. Charles Academy graduate made a very seamless transition this year from R.I.’s top division in high school volleyball to the Northeast-10 Conference, and for her excellent efforts, she received a pair of prestigious honors.
Not only was the 6-foot outside hitter named to the Northeast-10’s All-Rookie team, she was also a Third-Team All-Conference pick, the only freshman among the 21 players that earned a berth on one of the three All-Conference squads.
And it was easy to see why Lace was highly recognized for her superb play. She led the Golden Knights in kills (210) and attacks (851), and her 3.1 kills-per-set average ranked 10th in the conference.
“I thought it was awesome,” added Lace when asked about her rookie season. “It was really exciting. There was a lot to get used to at first. I’m a freshman, and I knew it was going to be hard to adjust, but the girls on my team were very welcoming and they made it really easy for me (to adjust).”
Last year, Lace capped a magnificent career at MSC by earning her second berth on the All-State team and capturing the R.I. Gatorade Player of the Year award by recording 281 kills, 116 digs, 80 service aces, 39 blocks, and a hitting percentage of .537.
From there came the quantum leap into Division II college volleyball, but right from the start, Lace handled the move quite well.
In her first match, a five-set triumph at home over the University of the Sciences on Aug. 31, she smacked a team-high 13 kills and had 11 digs, and the following night, in another five-setter (this time a loss) on the road against Kutztown, she again led her team in kills (16) and added 15 digs.
“The level of play is a lot higher and faster than high school and club (volleyball),” added Lace. “When the season started, it was really nervewracking, because it was a lot different, but everything got a lot better.”
Her best game of the season came in a difficult five-set defeat on Sept. 20 at home to Southern Connecticut that saw the Golden Knights lose the finale by a 19-17 score. But Lace did everything she could to help her team pull out a win and ended up with a career-high 23 kills and 60 attacks.
The kills were the most by a Saint Rose player since former All-American Stephanie Brink recorded 24 in a five-set win six seasons earlier. Three weeks later, she added another 20-kill effort in a four-set victory over Pace, and that performance helped her claim Northeast-10 Conference Rookie of the Week honors.
The Golden Knights eventually finished the season with a 17-10 record (10-5 in conference action), but lost in three sets in the quarterfinals of the Northeast-10 tournament to Southern Connecticut.
Nevertheless, Lace and teammate Alex Gagliano were recognized for their standout seasons late last week in voting done by the conference’s 16 head coaches. Gagliano, a junior middle hitter, earned second-team All-Conference honors, and Lace received her two accolades.
“That was very surprising,” admitted Lace. “I was shocked. When my dad found out, he called me. He was so excited.”
Even though her volleyball season’s over, Lace will still have a lot on her plate once she drives back to the Albany, N.Y. campus after spending a long Thanksgiving weekend with her family and friends.
Not only is Lace majoring in biology (with an eye toward medical school after graduation) and carrying a heavy workload, but she is also playing on a club volleyball team at school that practices once a week and is scheduled to play in a few tournaments.
“Everything’s been good,” she added. “I’m on the pre-med track, so it’s pretty hectic, but definitely worth it. Everything’s good and I like it a lot.”