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Kelly's decision inspires coach and teammates
Alex Kelly
Alex Kelly

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

When the members of the Atlantic Sun Conference All-Tournament team were announced Alex Kelly heard her name, but that was not the one she really wanted to hear.

Teammate Stefine “Jake” Pease, the setter for the Lady Bisons, earned the A-Sun Tournament MVP Award and a spot on the all-tournament team as well. But Kelly was still waiting to hear another name as she stood on the floor of the Alico Arena at Florida Gulf Coast Nov. 21.

Opposite Erin Pierce was called up to receive her award. And while all three Lady Bisons deserved the accolades Kelly was waiting for one more member of the team to be recognized.

But it didn’t happen. When the six members of the team were revealed, missing was Lady Bisons outside hitter Meghan Hinemeyer.

In the midst of celebrating the Lady Bisons Atlantic Sun Tournament Championship and the opportunity to return to the NCAA Tournament, Kelly was frustrated that Hinemeyer was left off of the all-tournament team.

“I thought she was going to be MVP of the tournament,” said Kelly. “I thought she played absolutely out of her mind. I didn’t deserve the medal.

“I knew she should have been on the all-tournament team. Meghan knew it. Everyone on the team knew it. Everyone in the stands knew it. It is something she deserved and had been working for this season.”

To make up for what Kelly thought was an oversight, she waited until the coaches and other staff members had left the dressing room and approached Hinemeyer. Kelly handed Hinemeyer her all-tournament medal and told her to keep it.

“It was a team win,” said Kelly. “None of us really care about individual awards. Meghan doesn’t care.

“I know that it boosted her confidence to know that her teammates know she is doing a great job.”

Kelly told her other teammates what she had done. But she didn’t want the story to go beyond the dressing room.

Hinemeyer, who has played on volleyball teams with Kelly and Pease in club basketball for years, was a little surprised when Kelly offered her the medal.

“That’s just the type of person Alex is,” said Hinemeyer, an All-Atlantic Sun Second Team selection. “I thought she had an awesome tournament.

“I thought it was really kind of her. I tried to give it back to her. She told me, `no, you deserve it more than I do’. I started to cry.”

Like most secrets this one eventually was leaked. Sunday, as the Lady Bisons gathered to find out where they would be spending the NCAA Tournament, the gesture was mentioned as part of the team spirit the Lady Bisons have counted on all season.

The Lady Bisons will play No. 9-seed California Friday at 5 p.m. CST in the first round of the tournament at Ohio State University in Columbus. Ohio State and Cincinnati play in the second match. The winners will play Saturday.

All three matches will be streamed free of charge by clicking here

Coach Brandon Rosenthal and the Lady Bisons have had an outstanding season, winning both the regular and conference tournament championships, but he admits that Kelly’s decision to give her medal to Hinemeyer is the reason he coaches.

“Winning the conference championship is great,” said Rosenthal. “Going to the NCAA Tournament is great. But that right there is way better than all of that.

“It’s not because of the act. It is because of the maturity and growth in not only Alex, but the whole team. This is something we have seen all year long. It was special. I was blown away by it.”

Rosenthal is in his seventh season as head coach of the Lady Bisons and has directed them to their best record ever, 28-3, including a perfect 22-0 record in the Atlantic Sun.

“What Alex did made me realize why I put countless hours into this job,” said Rosenthal. “I think it was a very genuine moment. It had nothing to do with anybody but Alex and her true feelings for Meghan and the team.

“I almost shudder to even tell the story. Alex never told a soul. After talking to Alex, I know it was one of those things she would have rather kept to herself, which makes it that much more impressive.”

Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations