Chambers overcomes homesickness to fulfill memorable career
HATTIESBURG, Miss. -- Seven hours and 465 miles separates Rosharon, Texas, a small town south of Houston, from the Southern Miss campus. Senior right-side hitter Kelsey Chambers knows the long trip well, and at one point, better than she would have hoped.
"On a scale of 1-10, probably an 8 but closer to a 9," she said in describing how close she was to transferring. "The problem wasn't with Southern Miss. It was that I was homesick. I loved it when I got here and I can't leave my teammates or Natalie by herself. So, I'll just stick it out. I did and ended up loving it."
Chambers played in six sets that freshman season, recording five kills as Southern Miss posted its first 20-win season since 2009. By the time her sophomore season rolled around, it was game on.
Seventeen starts and 221 kills later, everything was great. But was it more mental or physical?
"I would say a little of both," Chambers said. "After I kind of realized I was gonna be here and this is where I wanted to go to school, I got stronger mentally and physically."
Chambers did not see much playing time her junior season, but this season has been the team's starting right-side hitter all through conference play. Her .247 hitting percentage on the year is 99 points higher than her sophomore campaign. That bump in the road did not affect her.
"I think it was just the fact that it was my senior year, and I could be like my junior year or work to get my starting spot back," she said.
Her path to success comes with a great understanding and appreciation of the little things. The volleyball program prides itself on its excellent chemistry, and it will always serve as Chambers' favorite memory of her time with the squad.
"My favorite moment would be when I do something good, on the court with a block or whatever, just seeing my coaches faces and teammates faces and in that moment, 'wow Kelsey, you did what you were supposed to do for your team.' That whole time playing, the fun that came with contributing and stuff like that."
But, there's also one thing that will inspire all of Chambers' former teammates to never forget her, and it's simply called "the voice."
"The voice just kind of came out, I don't know where it came from," she said. "I kept talking in the voice to everyone and one of my funniest moments was this year, using it after Coach Amanda told us about a really hard drill I'd have to do. She got us in the circle and asked why do we think she has us do this drill, and I said in the voice 'to kill us.' Everyone started laughing and it was very funny."
The high-pitched persona has immersed itself in the team's culture.
"This past weekend I had a friend in town, and we were hanging out with the team and I started doing the voice and she didn't know what was happening," sophomore Ashley Chapman said. "It just comes out with the team and you don't even notice.
"The voice has been around forever. It's something the team always does and has caught on to everybody. It only comes up with the team."
Head coach Amanda Berkley has seen it for a few years now. It is hard to argue with the results, considering that Chambers and defensive specialist/libero Natalie Druhan are the all-time winningest senior class in school history.
"It's definitely rubbed off on everybody," she said. "She does it for comedy at times and also releases tension. The rest of the team caught on and wanted to do it."
The trials, tribulations and triumphs of being a collegiate student-athlete absolutely provide the tools necessary to succeed in the professional world. Chambers, who plans to finish her nursing degree in May 2019, knows exactly where she wants to go with it.
"I really was thinking more of pediatric nurse, or maybe even labor and delivery or neonatal," she said. "Anything with babies or kids. That's really my passion."
Southern Miss begins C-USA Championship play in Bowling Green, Ky., Friday at 2 p.m. versus Rice. Fans can catch the action on CUSA.tv.