Kelly Chaney and her family were driving back south on I-90 in their navy blue 2015 Lincoln MKC after visiting SUNY Oneonta when they decided to make a change in their next college stop.
The plan was to visit the University of Albany, but the GPS said Siena College was a few miles closer.
As she, her younger sister Jessie, and her father, Mike, took “the long way” into the gym where Siena’s volleyball team was practicing, Chaney’s mother, Marianne, had already begun sweet-talking head coach Garvey Pierre.
“She was like, ‘My daughter’s a volleyball player, she’d love to play on the team,’ ” said Chaney, a Clarkstown North senior middle blocker, and this year’s Journal News Rockland volleyball player of the year.
(Complete all-stars list at end of this article)
Pierre was surprised to see the 6-foot-2 Chaney walk in alongside her 6-foot-7 father.
“He was like, ‘Oh, you’re a volleyball player!’ ” Chaney said, stressing her tone, of her handshake exchange with Pierre.
The next day, Pierre drove down Clarkstown North to watch Chaney in action against East Ramapo. The 13-year coach only saw half an hour’s worth of volleyball, but it was more than enough to offer Chaney a full scholarship to play for the Saints.
“I believe that she’s really athletic,” Garvey said. “We’re happy to have her.”
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Chaney is still in disbelief.
“We stumbled into Siena on a whim,” she said. “I didn’t even expect this.”
But she hoped for it, and dreamed about it.
After all, she literally sleeps with a volleyball.
“If I’m too far away from it, I get separation anxiety,” said Chaney, holding a blue and white Molten volleyball. “When I was looking for this this morning, I had to find it in my covers.”
Chaney said she keeps three volleyballs in her room at all times, and sometimes as many as seven, making life even more difficult for her best friend, Maria Regina standout Kacie Malone, to navigate around.
“Kacie almost tripped on one the other day, and she’s on crutches,” Chaney said of Malone, who tore her ACL in September. “She was like, ‘You have to clean!’ ”
Chaney said she plans to bring seven balls to her dorm at Siena.
Chaney said the atmosphere at Siena reminded her of her family’s home in Wisconsin.
“The campus is beautiful, the people are all so friendly and nice. I like the food,” Chaney said, that a BLT wrap at Casey’s, a dining facility on campus, hit the spot. “I was like, ‘I could eat this everyday.”
Chaney’s love of a small cafe could also be a sign that her and Siena are a perfect match.
“I still have a Casey,” she said. “My best friend will just be Casey, the restaurant, now instead of Kacie Malone.”
The rest of the Journal News first team:
Carly Amatuzzo, Clarkstown North, Sr.
Bella Baroni, Nyack, Jr.
Rebecca Becourtney, Nanuet, Sr.
Gesnide Pierre, East Ramapo, Sr.
Megan Sneeden, Nyack, Sr.
Laura Zazyczny, Nanuet, Jr.
Coach of the year: Christian Collazo, Nyack
Madison Borenkoff, Clarkstown North, Sr.
Sarah Chan, Nanuet, Sr.
Jenna Feinberg, Clarkstown South, Sr.
Madison Gerace, Pearl River, Sr.
Madison Monaghan, North Rockland, So.
Renee Romangnoli, Suffern, Sr.
Amanda Schweitzer, North Rockland, Sr.
Nicole Andreotti, Nyack, Jr.; Brenna Abplanalp, Nyack, Sr.; Kayla Diaz, Nanuet, Fr.; Hailie Festa, Tappan Zee, Jr.; Sara Hayward, Suffern, Sr.; Maya Owens, Nyack, So.; Jaida Patrick, North Rockland, Fr.