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November 19, 2014 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2014-11-19

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8A - Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.cam

Faith, fortitude and Abby Col

Just a sophomore,
Abby Cole makes
a difference for
Daily Sports Writer
The 6-foot-5 middle blocker
floats toward the net as if she
were on a string, her powerful
right arm striking the ball at the
perfect height.
The ball comes crashing down
from a seemingly impossible
angle, landing with a thunderous
smack between six Illinois
players, just a few feet from the
net. It's not clear whether any of
them actually saw it come down.
In fact, as the ball bounces into
the stands, the Fighting Illini
might be thankful the floor
absorbed the impact and not
Abby Cole doesn't thump her
chest, throw her hands up in
triumph or taunt her opponents
on the other side of the net. She
turns straight to her teammates,
offering each one of them a
high-five before indulging in a
celebratorycheer together.
The sophomore middle
blocker is currently playing the
best volleyball of her life. But she
won't revel in her success.
She ranks amongthe Big Ten's
best in hitting percentage and
kills and won back-to-back Big
Ten Player of the Week honors in
October. But Cole simply wasn't
raised to be proud.
She has the potential to be
one of the greatest Wolverines
to ever step on the court. But
she doesn't care about that, nor
is she likely aware. She turns
to her teammates first because
she doesn't want her story to be
defined by personal success.
Her story isn't one of pure
athletic dominance - it's defined
by hard work, strong principles
and unrelenting faith.
Cole grew up in the small
beach town of Grand Haven,
Michigan, right on the shores
of Lake Michigan. She was born
into a Christian home, where her
parents molded her core beliefs
from a young age. From her
childhood to her present life at
Michigan, Cole's faith has been
the driving force of her journey.
"If I could have someone
describe me, I'd want them to
say, 'She's someone who lives by
what she believes,"' Cole said.
When she left home for college
on the other side of the state,
Cole initially struggled with
the transition. In addition to
the typical college pressures of
academics and living away from
home for the first time, Cole
began her collegiate volleyball
career playing out of position
on the right side after playing
middle blocker her entire life.
And to cope with the demands
of life as a student-athlete, Cole
turned to the same place she
always has: her faith.
Shn,.ei aftr a,.rivi;;g on


Sophomore middle blocker Abby Cole spends her days on both the court and at C.S. Mott Children's Hospital

As Michigan looks for consistency this year, Cole has been there thro

campus, Cole found a home easiestwaytobuildtrust-agood is a game and the perspective to
with the organization known teammate will conductherself in keep it in," Rosen said. "I think b
as Athletes in Action. The the same manner no matter the she's just somebody who has ar
group aims to bring together situation. And as Cole works to tremendous amount of character, h
Christian student-athletes, maintain this consistency, she's and that's a core value for us that U
helping them grow in their faith starting to embrace her purpose we look for in all of our players." h
and apply it both within and on the court. Now in her second year, Cole
without the confines of their "I believe that everything has more than settled into her p
sports. ®According to Cole, the happens for a reason and I'm starting role. Part of it is a resultd
organization has completely here for a reason and a purpose," of moving back to her natural g
transformed her college Cole said. "I'm not playing for position, but her heightened c
experience. myself - I'm playing for my perspective is just as important. F
Since becoming a member of teammates, I'm playing for my a
AIA, Cole has worked to ensure coaches, I'm playing for my *** b
her actions on and off the court family, I'm playing for the block
align with her strong moral 'M.' ... I'm just so blessed and so The heart of Cole's philosophy s
convictions. thankful tobe where Iam." is her humility, but its foundation -
Off the court, she visits C.S. Cole's faith-driven humility is is based on an extraordinary p
Mott Children's
Hospital every
developing close;
bonds with
families and
working hard to
brighten days. It's
not uncommon at }c t
for Michigan
student-athletes to
do humanitarian
work, but Cole
has embraced the
moral obligations
of being a
"I remember !.
when I was a
little kid and
I thought that
college athletes
were the coolest
thing in the world
- doesn't matter
if you're D-III or"
D-I, you're just
amazing," Cole RIT
said. Abby Cole leads the Michigan volleyball team in kills, blocks and attacking percentage asa sophomore.
Now, it's not uncommon for evidentevenon socialmedia. Her work ethic.
Cole to run into children only to Twitter bio is adorned with the Of course, it helps to be taller s
have them gleefully exclaim, "Oh hashtags #AO1 (audience of one) than everyone else. t
my gosh, that's Abby Cole!" and #IAmSecond - two brief During routine childhood r
"I love that kind of stuff," statementswiththesamegeneral doctor's visits, Cole wash
Cole said. "I love just getting religious message.Atauniversity measured against charts that
around to see everyone. Mott where student-athletes are put displayed the spectrum of t
is the coolest thing. It's the one on a platform and play in front heights for her age. Since birth, o
night a week my priorities are of thousands of people, Cole Cole has never even been on the r
refocused." relies on these phrases to "dumb chart - her height has always s

But an un
have been discove
University of Michig
eight alone.
"Her work
henomenal," Rosen
lay she's working he
et better. I think w
eiling has no limit
ow hard she's will
nd how selfless she
e with the talent th
Beginning with
ophomore season o
- especially during
eriod oftravel volle
to re
into a
puts h
it's Co
has Rc
about I
the c
In the middle ot
ophomore season fo
time in her life,C
remains not on her
her team.
Cole hasn't just
eam by taking on

coordinated energy that used to come out
rned- only when she was playing
couldn't basketball. Instead of letting
red by the her teammates do the work, she
;an based on makes her presence known on
the court, verbally directing
ethic is traffic and putting herself and
said. "Every her teammates in positions to
er butt off to succeed.
with her, the Her expanded . role also
because of requires her to frequently call
ling to work for sets from Dannemiller, the
's willing to team's unquestioned leader.
at she has." But even then, Cole finds a way
a breakout to make a seemingly selfish act
f high school mutually beneficial - she offered
the spring Dannemiller chocolate on the
yball crucial team bus on the way to a match
cruiting - at Rutgers.
transformed "She knows that chocolate is
from a my weakness," Dannemiller said.
adolescent "But it helps that she's actually
powerful, getting kills, soI want to set her."
attacker With her increased offensive
impeccable opportunities, the personal
ye accolades are mounting for Cole.
nation. But her humble personality and
even as she the general team-centric nature
her crafted of volleyball have allowed her
on display, teammates to thrive as well.
le's selfless Rosen cites Cole as the
and steady perfect example of someone who
rament that understands that no one player
osen raving can do it alone. Heapplauds her
her. willingness to reach out to her
ere's a lot of setters, passerstand defenders,
out there allowing them to share in the.
have great success.
Rosen said. "It's great to have great stats
they don't and get these great accolades,
arily have but I don't really want to be
haracter to remembered by that," Cole
ize those said. "I want to make a positive
difference in the culture of
Michigan. A good teammate,
* * * God-driven, always puts the
teambefore herself... I want to be
f a breakout remembered for my character."
r the second Added Rosen: "As a coach,
Cole's focus that's awesome. I just think she's
rself, but on really kind of an ideal player
when it comes to keeping the
helped her teamfirst andtheteammentality
n a heavier a priority."

things down" and put everything
in perspective.
"Volleyball's very important
to her, but she understands the
hiteo,' ,iteof life .thatt his

Rosen often preaches the idea
tht nn eter co-nseinc sthe

been above even the chart's
"above average" range.
Cole remembers going out
to restaurants with her family
when she was seven years old.
Occasionally, hosts or hostesses
would refuse to give Cole a kids'
menu. "Sorry, it's for 12 and
under only,"-they would say.
It wasn't long before Cole
turned to sports to exploit her
height advantage. Basketball
was her first love - from playing
with her dad in her driveway to.
playing on her middle and high
school teams. Her height didn't
just make the game easy - it
affected others' opinions of her
before they even saw her play.
And if it weren't for her height;
Cole may never have gotten the
player she is today. When she
started playing volleyball in the
sixth grade, she struggled with
a lack of coordination - an issue
she wouldn't work out until well
into high school.
Cole wasn't necessarily
talented yet, but in a Midwest
beach town and volleyball
hotspot, it was her height
that literally put her head and
shoulders above the rest. To this
day, she remains convinced that
she only made her high school
varsity team as a freshman
because she was 6-foot-3 and
lanky - "I was literally a
creature," she joked.


ffensive workl
evitalized a ve
truggling with
injuries. More tha
:he passion ands
has shown on th
notivated her tea
"In the past,s
>ut this year sh
passion show," sa
Lexi Dannemille
helpful because
players show th
.. You can let loo
after it."
As a freshman
position last year
and reserved.
Playing on
he right side,
she wasn't
required to
be as vocal or
involved as the
in the middle
who were
running the

load - she's
ry young team
a number of
an anything, it's
selflessness she
e floor that has

Even as he watches her
practice every day, Rosen has no
idea where Cole's ceiling might

immates. be.
she's held back, "She has unlimited potential,
e's just let her because again, her gifts are
lid senior setter amazing," Rosen said. "I know
r. "That's really she still has a lot of room to get
it lets other better, because technically she's
eir passion too still figuring stuff out on a day-
se and really go to-day basis. She's tireless in how
hard she'll work at it."
playing out of Cole has plenty of time left to
,Cole was timid establish her dominance on the
court. But she's
proving time
and sgin that
I want to make she wants her
a difference in legacy to be
grander than
the culture of her sport.
That's why,
Michigan." when she
was subbed
out near the

blocking game.
Instead of throwing the punches,
she was content to roll with
But after spending a year
absorbing knowledge of the
game - especially from former
Michigan middle blocker Jen
Cross, whose consistency and
experience forced Cole to the
right side - Cole was more than
happyto accept an expanded role
this season.
Back in the middle, Cole
has brought back the visible

end of the
crushing five-set loss to Illinois,
she became the most animated
player on the bench, shouting
words of encouragement until
the final point.
That's why she was visibly
unhappy walking off the court,
even though she finished the
match with ateam-high 20 kills.
That's why Cole let her forlorn
face illustrate the same idea
she has preached since she first
crushed a volleyball into the
stands: she is always second.




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