Papillion-LaVista’s Melendez Taking Bulldog Mentality to Drake
PAPILLION – In may ways, it is fitting that Papillion-LaVista’s Elena Melendez wound up committing to a college team with a nickname of Bulldogs, because the Monarch senior is the epitome of one on the volleyball court.
Melendez, a 5-foot-9 do-it-all for the top-ranked Monarchs, gave her verbal commitment to join the Drake volleyball program earlier this week. Melendez played this past club season for Premier 17 Gold.
“I really like the school as a whole. It’s close so that my parents and friends can come watch. A lot of people tell me that it’s a home away from home,” Melendez said. “The volleyball program, I really like the girls that I’ve met and the coaches really care about the players. I really like that.”
Melendez will be a libero/defensive specialist for Drake, but she is a full-rotation player and vocal leader for Papillion-LaVista. The versatile athlete is third on the team in kills, first in ace serves, third in digs and second in both serve receptions and assists.
Drake first got interested in Melendez when assistant coach Leslie Flores-Cloud saw her play at the Show Me Qualifier in Kansas City this past summer during club season. Flores-Cloud was actually at the match to watch a player on the opposing team, but Melendez took advantage of the opportunity and her play caught the coach’s eye from the opposite side of the net.
Melendez said she eventually went to the Drake camp last summer and was offered there, but wanted to keep her options open. As time went on, however, Melendez said Drake became the clear choice over other options she had.
Not only did she say she’s ready to compete at Drake next season, but that she is ready to commit to the back-row life.
“The plan was always for me to play back row, because of my height,” she said. “I feel more comfortable in the back row. I feel like I can get the job done back there.”
Drake coaches also said they liked her on-court demeanor and vocal leadership – something she said she embraces.
“I’m just comfortable with it. It’s natural for me,” she said. “I feel it helps the team to have someone on the court being loud and bringing energy to the court. It rubs off an everyone else.”
Melendez is the 15th known player in the Class of 2015 to commit to a Division I school. A pair of her Papillion-LaVista teammates is already committed to NAIA Midland University – Jess Peters and Priscilla O’Dowd.
“I think it’s definitely a weight lifted off all of our shoulders and we can worry about others things,” Melendez said. “We can just worry about our team. It’s a nice relief for us to be able to focus just on the high school season.”