LEXINGTON, Ky. - Senior Cody Kessel, a four-time First-Team All-EIVA honoree, was named a 2015 Second-Team All-America honoree by the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA). One of three Princeton players to earn All-America recognition, Kessel ranked in the NCAA Top 3 this season in both kills and points.
"The award means so much to me," Kessel said. "It represents a tremendous body of work that my team and I put in over these four years and for years before that. It is also a huge honor to come in the wake of a great Princeton Volleyball tradition. Looking back at all the great players and men that have come out of the program makes it that much more special.
"The program is around today because of their efforts and it has been an honor to play as part of that legacy," Kessel added. "Marin Gjaja '91, a Princeton Volleyball All-American before me, has been particularly inspiring. He not only gave a great deal to the program during his time here, but he has given back to the program in so many ways, which I admire a lot. It is an honor to be mentioned alongside him."
Gjaja and Derek Devens '98 were the only two All-America players prior to Kessel's arrival at Princeton. A four-year starter, Kessel was named to the 2013 Volleyball Magazine All-America Third Team, and then he earned AVCA All-America Honorable Mention last season, when he helped Princeton return to the EIVA championship match.
He ended his career with a historic statistical season, including a home finale few will forget. The three-time EIVA Offensive Player of the Week, Kessel ranks third in the NCAA in both kills (4.32) and points (5.20) per set, and his 30 kills against Saint Francis on Senior Day helped the Tigers clinch their fourth straight trip to the EIVA semifinals.
"It is hard to put into words what a special experience Princeton Volleyball has been," Kessel said. "It defined my life on and off the court for four years and it gave me so much. It gave me the opportunity to travel, compete, and excel--and it was also a place where I got to develop myself as a player and a man. Most importantly, Princeton Volleyball gave me a fierce group of friends and mentors through my time here that I owe so much to. It is these relationships, along with many memories of success and joy, that I will most cherish.
"I can't imagine my Princeton experience apart from the team, and my overall Princeton experience has been nothing short of magical," he added. "I am so grateful towards the alumni for creating and maintaining a phenomenal program, my coach, Sam Shweisky, for welcoming me as a Tiger and changing my life, my assistant coaches Mike Adams, Mike Vajo, and Pawel Kadlubowski, the expansive "team-around the team" that includes everyone from our bus driver, Lou, to our athletic director, Mollie Marcoux, the greater Princeton Athletics community, and all my teammates, friends and family for their support and love."
Head coach Sam Shweisky, who put together this video for the 2015 Senior Banquet, shared his thoughts on both Kessel and his All-America honor:
The impact Cody Kessel has had on this program wont to be fully appreciated until several years down the road. A culture shift this dynamic has been easy to see and applaud, but it is the foundation it has laid for years to come that make it so special.
Kessel, along with Will Siroky, Tony Ensbury, and Conor Dube helped to reshape this program to what it is today. From the day he walked onto campus, Cody Kessel showed everyone what it meant for volleyball to be the #1 most important thing. His overflowing love for the sport was evident in how he practiced, how he lifted, how he talked about the game and how he lived his life as a student-athlete at Princeton (Cody just turned in his senior thesis on the History of Volleyball).
Leading by example Kessel made coming to practice early cool, setting up the net cool, working out hard cool, watching opponent film cool. Guys wanted to be like Cody. His drive and exuberance for the sport was so contagious it spread to teammates and coaches alike. In the past four years this team has upgraded every aspect from the weight room, to scouting, to pre-match preparation and all of it has been led by Kessel. Cody has raised the bar of excellence for Princeton Volleyball and taken us to a new standard.
Cody's work in recruiting, community outreach, and building a fan base here are just some of the other ways he has impacted the program on a broader scale. Kessel will go on to play professionally in Europe next season but his passion, drive, and love for Princeton Volleyball will always be a constant here. It is a mark that will be left on this program forever. Cody – we can't thank you enough!