By Sue Moore
“There are a million things to say about Andelyn Simkins,” said Coach Erin Onken of the Schoolcraft Eagles volleyball team. Simkins has been named Miss Michigan volleyball runner up and recently signed her letter of intent to play volleyball close to home at Western Michigan University as an outside hitter. “I chose WMU because of the culture of the coaching staff, teammates and teachers. It was so encouraging, supportive and passionate.”
In her prep career, Simkins became Schoolcraft’s career leader in kills and digs with more than 2,000 career kills, just the 18th player in MHSAA history to do so. Simkins during her senior campaign helped Schoolcraft earn the No.1 ranking in the state›s Division 3 poll and an appearance in the MHSAA Division 3 volleyball finals held in Battle Creek. Simkins is a two-time First Team All-State selection while earning Second Team All-State honors in her freshman season. Simkins is also a three-time First Team All-SAC and All-Region honoree.
“Andelyn has had a tremendous impact on our program for the past four years. She is a once-in-a-lifetime type of player to come through our program. Her positive presence and loyal friendships towards her teammates will leave a mark on each one of them,” Onken said. “What makes her such a great teammate isn’t just the fact that she is a phenomenal volleyball player, it’s the approach she takes in communicating with her teammates. She cares about her teammates as friends and acknowledges and appreciates everyone’s efforts on the court.”
“This has been an exciting, fun and a bit overwhelming time after committing to WMU and playing in the state championship,” Simkins said. Her interest began when she was about six or seven years old. Her dad, Andy, would help her practice by holding up a garden hose as something to hit over. Next came a net. All she wanted to do was be the best, he said. “She works really hard to get better and get more touches.” Her mom, Joni, grew up in Vicksburg while her dad graduated from Portage Northern.
“Schoolcraft players have such great passion for the game,” Andelyn said. “We have a bond with each other. My teammates are fun to be around. They make me so much happier. In practice it is such a fun environment; I’m going to really miss it.”
Simkins carries a 3.8 GPA while taking two classes a day at Kalamazoo Valley Community College in history and nutrition. “I eat a lot as I’m so hungry all the time. I like to eat healthy, especially drinking chocolate milk for building good bones and joints.” She has been successful at that because she was recently measured with a 30-inch vertical jump, especially important for an outside hitter.
“The passion and energy she plays with is contagious. She is ridiculously humble and always striving to better herself and her team,” said Coach Onken. “The biggest change I’ve seen from her junior to senior year is the leadership role she took on. She’s been a three-year captain, and led her team wonderfully, but this year has been different. It’s hard to explain. But on our team retreat, while the team was deciding their team identity for the season, she brought up being grateful for the opportunity we have to play together and to make this season special.
“That’s been our motto all year long. Be grateful for the opportunities we get to experience together, for the memories that we get to create and the fun we get to have together playing this game we love,” Onken said.
“Andelyn is the role model that you wish for your daughter. She’s kind, faithful and hard working. She lives her life with integrity, knows what she wants and is relentless in pursuit of reaching it. But as great a player as she is today, she wants more, knows she can be more and knows that she isn’t there, yet…but she will be!” said Onken.