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Published: Thursday, 10/11/2007

Start High's Vicki Brown hitting it big at Illinois

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Vicki Brown, Start High School graduate and University of Illinois volleyball player. Vicki Brown, Start High School graduate and University of Illinois volleyball player.
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Vicki Brown probably was unhappy to see September end.

The Start High School product had a September to remember with the University of Illinois volleyball team. At the end of the month Brown ranked 32nd in Division I with a .386 hitting percentage while averaging 3.4 kills per game.

It's just one of the reasons Brown, a senior who last season earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors, is a valuable member of the Illini roster. Another is her ability to pump up the crowd at home matches at Huff Hall.

"I don't feel I do a lot [to get the crowd excited]," Brown said. "I love this sport, so I just go out and have fun. There's no special magic."

Brown has become one of the top-ranked volleyball players in the country after playing in the USA Open Volleyball Championship May 26-29 in Austin, Texas.

"After her experience with the national team, [Vicki] sees her senior year as an opportunity to springboard into something professionally or with a national team," said her coach at Illinois, Don Hardin.

Brown said playing volleyball after college always has been her goal.

"That is what I've always wanted to accomplish," she said. "Here at Illinois they've given me a lot of tools to accomplish that goal. And [playing on the national team] has helped me to prepare to play after [college], because I got a glimpse of what the competition will be like overseas."

This season the Illini was picked to finish in the lower division of the Big Ten standings, in large part because of six freshmen on the roster.

"We were picked to finish eighth in the preseason, but we expect to shock a lot of people," Brown said. "This is a fine team.

"I try to facilitate the communication between the coaches and the players. With half the team filled with freshmen, I also try to keep up a level of communication between the upperclassmen and lowerclassmen."

She has provided both offense and defense for the Illini, which began the season 10-4. She ranks second on the team with 185 kills, and her 66 total blocks also are second-best.

Brown changed her major from history to speech communication over the summer and plans to graduate next fall.

GETTING THEIR KICKS: Several members of the men's soccer team at Adrian College have local connections.

Freshman Alex Pavlika, a Temperance native and Bedford grad, has started in goal three times for the Bulldogs, posting nine saves and a 2.40 goals-against average.

And junior Dan Weiss, a Southview product, has started eight of Adrian's 10 contests. A defender, Weiss has managed to put four shots on goal for the 3-7 Bulldogs.

GREEN BEAR CONNECTION: The field hockey team at Northwestern boasts a pair of Ottawa Hills graduates on the roster.

Senior Jenny Stancati and freshman Megan Jamieson both are members of the Wildcat team that started the season 3-6.

Stancati, a back - or defender - had played in eight games this season but had not registered other statistics.

Contact John Wagner at: jwagner@theblade.com.



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