Skyview's Melissa Fay looks to pass the ball during a game earlier this year.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
As a freshman, Skyview senior Melissa Fay had made the varsity volleyball team. Then she took a vacation, never caught up on her studies, and was academically ineligible for the conference tournament.
The experience was a wake-up call and Fay has not fallen asleep since.
“I just decided to not be so lazy and try to work hard,” Fay said. “I knew it would not be good to have a low GPA when I went to go to college.”
Fay’s change in attitude resulted in first team all-Northern Lights Conference selections this season in volleyball and basketball. She also now has her GPA at 3.03. Fay said it looks like she will go to Clackamas Community College in Oregon City, Ore., and play volleyball. Clackamas is close to Portland, where Fay’s mother, Maureen Clancy, now lives.
The only sports Fay has played in her life are volleyball and basketball. Fay started basketball in the fourth grade and volleyball in seventh grade. Fay did not enjoy volleyball in middle school, but 2004 Skyview graduate Amanda Fay, Melissa’s sister, convinced Melissa to play for Skyview coach Sheila Kupferschmid. Fay also got to play with sister and 2006 graduate Allison Fay on that freshman volleyball team.
Kupferschmid said she saw in Fay all the tools to be a great setter.
“As a volleyball coach, the setter position you pick that,” Kupferschmid said. “You want an athlete in that position. One of her greatest assets is her athleticism. She’s a natural as a setter.”
Kupferschmid said Fay had her ups and downs as a freshman. Like many at Skyview, Kupferschmid saw a difference as a sophomore.
“She came in like most freshmen relatively immature,” said Skyview math teacher Randy Sparks, who taught Fay when she was a freshman and a sophomore. “For most kids, in the summer between freshman and sophomore years, a lot of maturation goes on. Melissa definitely realized to be able to play sports, you’ve got to be eligible.”
As a sophomore, Fay took over the starting setter position at Skyview. The Panthers had an 18-2 record heading into the conference tournament, but did not make it to state.
“She grew into being a pretty good hitter as well,” Kupferschmid said. “She also was pretty decent with the dump. She had the tools that made her an excellent setter rather than a good setter.”
Kupferschmid said Fay also developed an understanding of where to set the ball based on her increased understanding of her role and her teammates’ roles in the offense.
“It definitely got easier to lead as the years went on,” Fay said. “As a sophomore, I didn’t feel comfortable leading because I was so young.”
After Skyview had a building year when Fay was a junior, the Panthers finished 15-0 in nontournament matches as seniors before some upsets at the conference tournament in Kodiak short-circuited a run to state.
“To this day, I don’t know what happened,” Fay said of the conference tournament. “It was a weird weekend for everyone. There were a lot of upsets.”
Fay had a similar career in basketball, where she was the starting point guard from the beginning of her sophomore year to the close of her career.
“She’s lucky because she can use both hands,” said Ron Fay, Melissa’s father. “She was born that way. She’s ambidextrous. All the kids I coached learned to use both their hands.”
Fay also had to mature as a point guard.
“In past years, I always had other people to pass to who could score,” Fay said. “This year, I had a lot of players that weren’t as experienced. I had to step it up.”
Fay said she didn’t expect the team to win more than a few games this year. That didn’t stop her from attending every basketball open gym in the summer. Basketball coach Ronnie Kier said Fay worked on shooting, getting her shot off the dribble and ballhandling. Kier said Fay also worked to get in a mind-set where she could handle pressure situations.
“She was more of a leader,” Ron Fay said. “She just had more poise and self-confidence in her ability to handle the ball and her ability to make a big difference on her team.”
Fay’s hard work resulted in the school record for assists in a game (eight) and 3-pointers in a season (38). The Panthers also got to 10 wins, picking up a pair of impressive victories along the way.
In mid-February, Skyview fell behind Homer by 17 points on senior night. Behind a then-school-record 27 points from Fay, the Panthers came back to claim a 58-55 victory in overtime in front of a frenzied crowd.
“She’s not a vocal leader, but her attitude leads the team,” Kier said. “When she’s up with her body language, the team reacts. It’s the same way when she’s down.
“This year, she did a much better job staying positive. There were only a few games in the middle of the season where you could tell she wasn’t into basketball.”
In the first round of the Northern Lights Conference tournament, Skyview pulled off a 41-38 victory over Colony behind a school record 34 points from Nicole Van Ryzin. It was the first time in school history that the Panthers had defeated the Knights.
“Coaching her the last couple of years, I knew that if she could grow up and have fun, she’d be able to show all her talents and capabilities as a player,” Kier said. “She was able to do that and it resulted in her getting first team all-region. A lot of hard work went into that.
“It’s been awesome coaching her.”
After another summer working for her father at Moose Creek Lodge, where Ron said daughters Allison and Melissa often put his customers to shame with their ability to hammer sockeyes, Melissa will head to college, where those who know her expect her athletic and academic development to continue.
“I guess I look at her as a success story from freshman year to senior year, and I don’t see that changing in college,” said Sparks, who has Fay as an aide this year. “She’s going to continue to get better athletically and intellectually. She’s a very hard worker.”
Kupferschmid also sees a bright future for Fay.
“Melissa’s best ball is yet to come,” she said. “She’s very athletic, and she’ll continue to grow into the leadership role of a setter. I think she’ll have even more success at the college level than she’s had at the high school level.”
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