Gallery by Karen Akers
Shady Spring senior Kelsie Dangerfield was a state champion gymnast at a young age. That was before a volleyball was placed in her hands.
The love of the game was immediate and sent her athletic career in a direction she could never have imagined at a young age.
Friday afternoon, with family, friends and teammates in attendance, Dangerfield signed a National Letter of Intent to play volleyball at Fairmont State University.
“I think it is impossible to tell you how excited I am. Ever since I started playing, I told myself I was going to play in college,” Dangerfield said. “I wasn’t sure where I would go and how far I would make it, but I was going to go. I think I made 10-year old Kelsie proud today.”
Fairmont State was the destination that Dangerfield always wanted, but there were details to work out and she had other offers to consider.
The Falcons also had a recent head coaching change with Travis Hinkle taking over this past July.
“I had been talking to coach (Hinkle), but he hadn’t officially offered me. I went up for a visit and he talked to me about how he coaches and how the team will be,” Dangerfield said. “He also told me that when I came up to camp over the summer, that the girls loved me. Whenever he mentioned my name they were really excited. That was so cool. He offered me a spot, but I didn’t except it right away. I knew that was definitely where I was going to go.”
Although she was set on Fairmont, Dangerfield did her due diligence in making her final decision. Part of that process was seeking advice from current Fairmont player and former Woodrow Wilson standout, Bryce Knapp.
“I played against Bryce my freshman year when she was a senior. I have always been scared of her because she was a freakin’ beast in high school,” Dangerfield said, laughing. “I saw her at a volleyball event for Autism awareness and started talking to her about (Fairmont). I messaged her a couple of weeks ago and told her I was thinking about committing and asked her if she had any advice. She was completely open and honest about how it had been for her. That made me feel even more comfortable with my decision. I am excited to play with her.”
Dangerfield will join her head coach Kelly Williams and assistant coach Sharon Pinardo as Fairmont State volleyball alumni.
“Going to Fairmont and then having one of your players go there is great,” Williams said. “I am so proud of her and I wish the best for her. Fighting Falcons, let’s go!”
Dangerfield has been a standout for Shady Spring from the first time she stepped on the court. Replacing her at the setter position will be a tall task for the Tigers next season.
“Kelsie is a dynamic player all the way around. She is very athletic and brings a strong presence to the court with her knowledge of the game and how she can place the ball,” Williams said. “She is a leader and her steady play brought calm to the court for us.”
While everyone was clearly happy for Dangerfield realizing her collegiate dreams, it is easy to understand how the day was also bittersweet, especially for all-state outside hitter, Chloe Thompson.
“We have played volleyball since second or third grade. Kelsie has been my best friend my whole life,” Thompson said. “I am really excited that she is happy and gets to play at the collegiate level, but honestly, I am heartbroken. I have never really played without her on the court my whole life, outside of one year in middle school. I really don’t have that anymore, this is it.”
The move from high school volleyball to college level volleyball is a big one and Dangerfield knows there is work ahead, but it is another mountain she is ready to climb.
“I have to get stronger. I don’t really lift or anything like that, but I will be starting soon. I think they lift multiple times per week, so I am excited for that,” Dangerfield said. ” I just loved the atmosphere at Fairmont. As soon as I stepped on campus, I knew it was home. It wasn’t awkward and it wasn’t intimidating. I just felt like (Fairmont) was where I was supposed to be. I am confident in my decision.”