SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Some say when an achievement is earned, it’s not about the honor; it’s about the road taken to earn the success. When making that argument it would be wise to mention Springfield’s Mike Pelletier. He took home the tournament Most Outstanding Player award as The Pride defeated Carthage 3-0 to win the first Division III national championship.
Pelletier’s play during the tournament’s three games is not the only thing consistent about him. He fought back to play better than ever after suffering a sickness that kept him in the hospital for two and a half weeks, and stripped him of 60 pounds.
“I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis, it’s a milder form of Crohn’s disease,” Pelletier said. “I missed the end of school year and had to spend all summer catching up on school work and putting weight back on.”
He said he first felt symptoms two years prior but he continued to push on and play. The symptoms continued to get worse until he reached a breaking point at the 2011 Molten Invitational.
“He literally dropped after the final,” Springfield head coach Charlie Sullivan said. “We got back to the hotel and he blew up to about a 104-degree fever.”
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He was admitted into the hospital the next day in Springfield and put on a diet that the word restricted does not begin to describe.
“I couldn’t eat vegetables, fruits, dairy, red meat, whole grain and caffeine,” Pelletier said. “[I could eat] Toast, eggs, water and pancakes. [The diet] lasted two weeks while I was in the hospital and a month after I got home.”
While battling through the illness Pelletier never lost the desire to play volleyball. The thoughts that did creep into his mind were his body may not allow him to play anymore. Those who heard him say that provided an interesting form of encouragement.
“They laughed at me,” Pelletier said. “They said, ‘don’t ever think that because you’re going to get back to where you were with all your hard work and we’re going to help you.’ And they did, and I couldn’t have done it without them.”
The road to recovery was long. While working out during the summer, he couldn’t jump or move well, but he stayed the course.
“I played every day during the summer,” Pelletier said. “I just kept telling myself I’m going to get back to it. My parents bought me a health club membership and I was in there three hours a day.
“It was right around the start of December when I felt the most normal I had felt in a while.”
While he feels like himself now, he has learned his lesson and health is now a top priority.
“I’ve really monitored the symptoms. I go back home every two months for more medicine,” Pelletier said. “I’m really trying to be aware of my health and not try to cover it up so much as I did last year.”
Pelletier takes very little credit for his comeback and MOP award. He deflects as much praise to his parents, teammates and coaches as possible. However those whom he praises seem to enjoy his success even more than he does.
“There’s nothing else other than Mike’s personality who could have done what he did,” Sullivan said. “Driven is what describes him.”
“I think I was happier when Mike [Pelletier] won the Most Outstanding Player than when we won the national championship,” Greg Falcone said. “Nobody deserves this award more than him. He is the most overlooked player in the country.”