Lady Buffs work under new coach
When Melissa Ham became the new Melrose volleyball coach this year, the hiring brought with it a nickname.
“Everybody called me mish-mash; some of them still call me mish — because they’ve known me that long,” says Ham, whose name was Melissa Misch when she graduated from Melrose in 1984. “Outside they do. Now, when we’re here (in the gym), they’re very respectful and call me Coach Ham.”
Ham, who was an assistant with the girls basketball team last year, replaces Tandee Delk — who left after two years as the Buffaloes coach.
The new Melrose coach may have something the old one could only wish for most of last season — a healthy Allison Cochran.
The 6-foot, 1-inch senior injured her shoulder early in the volleyball season and was able to return only for the district tournament. By that time, it was too late to effectively reincorporate the standout middle blocker and outside hitter into the Buffaloes’ scheme.
Cochran, though, is quick to point out she wasn’t the only hurt Melrose starter in 2002.
“It was an adjustment, because we had two starters out. I was out and so was Katy Burnett — she had a broken wrist, I had a broken shoulder,” Cochran said. “They adjusted really well; it was just a tough season.”
Helping Cochran on the front line will be fellow 6-footer Audrey Hemminger, a junior who took over much of her injured teammate’s load last year. The Buffaloes also bring back a trio of senior outside hitters, although Jessica Hail, Tara Whitehead and Burnett are all vertically challenged at 5-4.
“We were a really young team last year, but we have a lot of heart and ambition and I think we want to show people that we’re better than they think we are,” Hail said.
Kelly Fish, a 5-3 sophomore, is expected to start at setter this year for Melrose as the Buffaloes hope to contend with chief rivals Fort Sumner and Elida for the two playoff spots out of District 3-1A.
The new coach is hoping that the current bill of health for her team will last the whole season long.
“(Allison) has recovered from that and I don’t see any residual effect of that injury — and she doesn’t talk about any residual effect, so we’re doing great,” Ham said. “Actually, Audrey worked really hard this summer and improved quite a bit. With those two working together, that’s going to be a big improvement.”