Published on December 9, 2013 at 8:00 pm
By JOSHUA NATOLI
Being tossed head first into a new environment can be a daunting experience, especially as an adolescent. For children, the process simplifies itself. You show up to school, start playing with the other kids, and just like that you have a new best friend, perhaps for life. But, adolescents and preteens are brutal creatures. Most have already figured out who their friends are and that’s that. No new friends. So, how does one break this barrier? Just ask senior Emily Felter, now formerly of the Golden Knights Volleyball team. She was faced with the same situation upon transferring from the familiarity of her parochial school to a public middle school in seventh grade. In order to get acclimated with her new surroundings she baptized herself in fire and tried out for nearly every sport the school offered, “being the new kid and wanting to make friends, playing sports would introduce me to many people,” says Felter. “So, in seventh grade I tried out for the girls modified volleyball team and made it. I had never played volleyball a day in my life before trying out, and now I am a senior finishing my college career.”
What was initially a stab at trying to make new friends happened to turn into a rather life-changing decision. Upon Felter’s arrival at Auburn High School a decision had to be made between playing soccer, her first sports love, or volleyball, which, according to her, she wasn’t that great at. Even though Felter had been playing soccer for almost her whole life, she chose to play volleyball. After trying out for the team and achieving varsity status as a freshman, Felter became obsessed, “in my sophomore, junior, and senior years playing, I became very serious about the sport,” says Felter. “I would attend several camps each summer, set up a net in my yard and bugged my family into playing with me, and I taught my best friend how to play so we could practice and play together.”
Felter took her talents to a club team, Xtreme Volleyball Club, during her junior year at Auburn, an experience she loved so much that she would travel an hour and fifteen minutes twice a week just to attend practice. New skills learned from Xtreme would be translated at Auburn, which paid off immensely. Felter was earning 10-15 kills a game, as well as most valuable player awards, and First Team All-League and All-County honors as a senior.
Such success at Auburn combined with Felter’s height of 6’2 led to many looks from prospective colleges and universities from all levels of competition. Although interest came from all over the country, Felter felt the need to remain close to home, “Mom wanted me to stay closer to home, so I decided to stay within the Buffalo, Rochester, and Albany areas because it was closer to home and my parents would be able to come watch me play,” says Felter. “I didn’t want to play for a (NCAA Division I) school because they own you there. It was athletics then academics. Playing for a DII school would be the perfect balance of athletics and academics.”
The desire to teach is what propelled Felter’s match with The College of Saint Rose. Head Coach Brian Goodale attended a tournament in which Felter was playing and spoke with her about taking a look at the school. The opportunities presented by the education program, the chemistry the volleyball teammates had, and the sense of community were all Felter needed to choose Saint Rose.
If there was one thing Felter learned throughout her ten years of playing competitive volleyball it would be that nothing in life comes easy. Everything, every skill, has to be earned, “from starting out as a horrible little modified volleyball girl, working my way through four years of varsity volleyball, two years of playing an on amazing club team, and finishing my four years of college volleyball, I am now a stronger, smarter, and better person and player,” says Felter. The most important aspect that has been honed in over the years for Felter has been her attitude. It’s not how many point you can earn the team, it’s supporting them and not dwelling on negativity. It’s the pep talks to get everyone on the same page before a game that mean more than any serve or spike.
Although Felter is pursuing a career in either general or special education she also hopes volleyball will remain in her future. While teaching either ninth grade English, or second grade Felter would also love to coach a club or high school volleyball team. Talk about using your Saint Rose experience post-graduation.
Even though her Golden Knights career is over, Felter will never forget a game during senior weekend this season against top-ranked Bentley College. The intense game went all the way to a fourth set which instead of ending at 15, ended with a Golden Knight triumph of 20-18, “we worked together, proved to everyone that we were a great team, and started the senior weekend off on the right foot.”
Felter feels as though her successful career wouldn’t be possible without the support of her family and the countless hours driving to tournaments, support at games and words of encouragement. “The amount of support that my family has given me throughout the years has meant so much to me, and without them I would not be the person I am today,” says Felter. “I am truly blessed to have such an amazing and supportive family.”