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Power and finesse

Sheila Browning brought a game of power to the volleyball court for the LaMoille/Ohio Lady Lions.

Michelle Kelly’s game was one of finesse, able to set with pinpoint accuracy to trigger the Princeton Tigresses’ offense.

They were the most athletic players for their teams, earning unanimous all-conference selections in their respective conferences.

When you bring them together, they make a dynamic duo as 2013 co-Players of the Year.

Browning firearm

Ask an outdoorsmen what he’d like for Christmas and he would likely say a Browning firearm. LaMoille/Ohio had a true Browning firearm of its own in Shiela Browning.

The senior outside hitter, pounded out an area-best 233 kills for the Lady Lions, leaving opposing blockers to brace for cover when Browning swung her powerful right arm. Her average of 3.58 kills per set was more than one kill a set better than the next area hitter.

“There’s nothing quite like the thrill of making a kill with nobody touching it,” Browning said.

To get that, she said, there’s got to be “a good pass, a good set and my timing’s got to be right spot on.”

Even with all that firepower, LaMoille/Ohio coach Hallie May believes the versatile Browning could have played anywhere on the court and played it well.

“She may be quite possibly the best all around athlete on a volleyball court,” May said. “There’s no doubt in my mind she could have played the setter position, and she would have thrown her body around as a libero.

“God just gifted her with some guns and springs in her legs so we used her up front. She’s a hard worker who really came around as a team leader. We had many talks concerning the game, team chemistry, etc.”

Browning, who ranked second on her team in aces with 39 and third in scoring with 122 points, took her role as team captain to heart. Describing her duties, Browning said, requires “being a leader on the floor, just contributing the skills that a I do have and keeping everyone else up when we get down.”

She is a two-time Little Ten All-Conference First Team selection, leading the Lady Lions to back-to-back runner-up finishes to Newark.

Browning is the first LaMoille player to receive the BCR Player of the Year honors dating back to its inception in 1992. Ohio’s Rachel Hansen won in 1993.

Now showing her versatility for the L/O basketball team, Browning has attracted the interest from Sauk Valley and IVCC volleyball coaches, May said. She said she likes both spots equally well, ideally being able to play both.

“It would be a dream to play both of them,” she said.

A helping hand

When asked what her job details as the team’s setter, Princeton senior Michelle Kelly said, “I just try to get my hitters chances to score some points.”

She’s been giving those hitters a lot of chances over the past two seasons as the Tigresses’ primary setter.

One thousand, four hundred seventy nine of them to be exact over the years, including an area-high 750 this year, 230 assists more than the next best.

Kelly said it’s helped to play with her classmates and partners in crime like Ashley Farraher, Becca Hult and Alicia Poss all these years, “because we’re close and I know where they’re going to be.”

In addition to her assists total, Kelly has capped her career by placing her name on the top 10 list for points (second, 504) and digs (fourth, 418) on the Prouty Gym corridor. Again, Kelly humbly says, “It’s exciting, but I couldn’t get all those assists without my teammates.”

“I am going to truly miss this kid. Not for just her playing ability, but for what she is off of the court,” PHS coach Andy Puck said. “Michelle has a very high volleyball IQ. She has the quickness to get to every pass, and she makes great decisions with each ball that she sets. Mix these with her competitiveness, excellent defense and the know how to win games. She is one of the best I have had at Princeton High School. “

If things go as planned, volleyball will continue to be a big part of Kelly’s future at the community college level. She said she has looked at both IVCC and Illinois Central College.

Kelly is the first to repeat as BCR Player of the Year since Hall’s Kendall Rush won outright in 2007 and shared it with Princeton’s Leah Shaw in 2008. Kelly marks the eighth time a Princeton player has been selected for the BCR top honors.

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