Superlatives part of resume

Kelsey Bowers and Kelley Blakewood are voted as two of the best.

Oak Hall's Kelley Blakewood, left, and Gainesville High's Kelsey Bowers are The Gainesville Sun volleyball players of the year.

MICHAEL C. WEIMAR/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Wednesday, January 12, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 12, 2005 at 12:51 a.m.

Whether in casual conversation or while being interviewed, for the most part coaches come up with the same words to describe the senior seasons Gainesville's Kelsey Bowers and Oak Hall's Kelley Blakewood had.

For Bowers, a 6-foot-2 middle blocker who has signed with Florida, the word is dominant.

"She is the most dominant player we played this year, by far," said Riviera Beach Suncoast coach Will Olds, whose team GHS beat in the state semifinals en route to a second consecutive Class 4A championship. "She hits it with such authority and can do it using so many different angles.

"We couldn't do anything with her."

For Blakewood, a 5-foot-11 North Carolina State signee, the word is valuable.

"Her value to that team can't be understated," P.K. Yonge coach Perry McDonald said late in the season. "She has been asked to do so much and has come through in every aspect for them. I can't say enough good things about her."

Each player ended her high school career at the final four in Lakeland (Bowers with a title and Blakewood with a semifinal loss to eventual 2A champ Tampa Prep), and each was named their classification's state player of the year and thus, was a finalist for the Florida Dairy Farmers Miss Volleyball award, won by Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas's Foluke Akinradewo (Bowers finished second and Blakewood fourth).

And with few exceptions, the two friends say they will look back on her careers with happiness.

"I had such a good time," said Blakewood, an outside hitter who will move to libero in college. "The team got along really well my senior year and we had a lot of fun. Obviously, we didn't win the championship like we had hoped, but we were able to finally beat P.K. to get ourselves in position to play for the state title."

That trip didn't come as easily for Blakewood as Bowers.

In her entire career, Blakewood had not beaten the Blue Wave and 2003 Gainesville Sun small-school players of the year Nirelle Hampton and Janine Williams until Nov. 10, when Oak Hall topped the host Blue Wave 25-22, 25-15, 23-25, 25-21 in the regional finals.

It was a year that saw fellow Eagles' seniors Kelly Davies, a North Carolina commitment, and Kittery Neale, a Davidson commitment, battle injuries and force much of the hitting and leadership load on Blakewood, who responded with 374 kills, 402 digs (giving her 1,100 for her career) and 202 service points.

"Kelley has a huge impact on every team she plays on," Bowers said. "When she's on the court, she's like a coach out there. She's always helping others and is very focused, telling teammates what to do each point.

"She definitely makes her teammates better."

Bowers, meanwhile, spent the last two years as the centerpiece of the greatest volleyball run in area history.

On teams that went a combined 62-2, Bowers won a pair of state championships and as a senior finished with 428 kills and 148 blocks.

"Kelsey is an amazing player," Blakewood said. "She is dominant. She's so fast at the net in transition and can block anyone.

"Another thing about her is not only is she dominant from the front row, but she can go in the back and play well, too. Not many players at her position can claim that."

You can reach John Patton by calling 374-5074 or by e-mail at

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