Jacksonville State’s senior defensive specialist Kelly Cole is proving why there is a spot on the court for even the shortest players.
“Kelly has been invaluable for us,” head coach Joseph Goodson said. “She anchors our serve-receive. We believe if you can serve-receive, you’ll be good.”
At 5-foot-7, Cole is tied with Samantha Bohne as the shortest girl on the team. Her small stature works in her favor. According to Goodson, taller players excel more in the front row as blockers. Cole is a back-row player and leads the Gamecocks in digs this season with 373.
“If you’re a little bit smaller and faster and you can cover ground, yeah, it’s definitely an advantage,” Goodson said.
Being shorter and faster only plays a minor role in getting digs. Decision-making makes all the difference.
“We decide whether to take the ball with our platform or with our hands,” Cole said. “Shooting our platforms, shooting our hands, those are decisions we have to make in a quick second.”
One advantage Cole has over her teammates and opponents is the fact that she was the roommate of Lauren Harkins, JSU’s all-time leader in digs with 2,163. Cole said she models her game after Harkins.
“She was definitely a game player,” Cole said. “She was someone that I looked up to and still look up to and think about how she used to play. She just dominated the back row. It was very hard to get kills on her. She just stepped on the court and owned it. That’s something I want to be able to embody.”
With 1,281 digs, Cole currently sits fifth all-time for JSU. She sits 61 digs behind fourth place Abbey Breit with 1,342.
The Gamecocks have only nine guaranteed matches remaining. Cole would need to average 98 digs per match to tie Harkins’ record. Currently averaging 4.39 digs per set and 14.92 digs per match, Harkins’ record seems safe from Cole’s reach.
Moving up to fourth all time, however, is well within her reach. She only needs to average 6.8 digs per match to tie Breit.
While moving up in the record book is a flattering accomplishment, Cole is only focused on one thing on gameday.
“It’s been really cool being able to move up the ladder,” Cole said. “I don’t really think about that going into matches because I’m definitely more of a player. I just want to win the game. It would be a really good ending to my senior year to say that I’m fourth all-time.”