VBALL : Kern contributes to SU despite late start at volleyball
It took Brittany Kern 14 years to realize she’s a gifted volleyball player. It didn’t take her long to showcase it.
Kern, sophomore middle back for Syracuse’s volleyball team, started playing volleyball late compared to other players. But she quickly learned the sport to the point where she’s contributing in her second year for the Orange.
Kern started in 28 of 36 matches for the Orange in 2006 and was fifth on the team with 1.99 kills per game. SU wrapped up its season on Sunday, finishing with an 11-25 (5-9, Big East) record.
But the season provided valuable experience for Kern, who began her volleyball career later than most.
When Kern was younger, she primarily focused on her school work. She was uncoordinated and not a particularly good athlete.
Kern began her coming-out party at Roncalli High School in Indianapolis, where she was a four-year letter winner. The Roncalli Rebels won both country and sectional championships her junior year, while repeating as country champions her senior year. The team ultimately ended with a 26-7 record that year.
‘It was definitely a good progression,’ said Anna Weber, a former teammate at Roncalli. ‘She started out on junior varsity her freshman year but worked her way up. It wasn’t long before she was starting on varsity and came into her own.’
Kern was a state all-star in 2003 and 2004. Her individual accolades also include being named to the Senior South All Star Team and Senior 3A/4A South All Star Team. In addition, Kern was honored as an Academic All State selection her senior year.
‘She’s a hard worker more than willing to put in more than enough extra work it takes to succeed,’ said Kathy Nalley-Schembra, her high school volleyball coach.
It sounds like a magical road but it had stumbling blocks as well. Kern had always played in the Catholic Youth Organization for the school team. However, she did not consider club volleyball until she was 14. Compared to other volleyball players, it was late for her to start club play.
Kern played club for Circle City Volleyball. In her first year of club volleyball, she made it on to the lowest club team possible. Kern continued to progress and looked good until two years later when she tried to make the best club squad, but was sent back to the second team.
‘It just made her so much better,’ said Brianna Kern, youngest of the Kern sisters. ‘It drove her to step up and focus so she could be as good as she is now.’
She ended up playing club ball for four years, each year qualifying for the Junior Olympic Nationals. While she was playing for one of club’s under-16 teams, the team ended up winning back-to-back national qualifiers. At one point the team won 44 games without suffering a loss. During this run, Kern was named Prep Volleyball’s player of the week.
After going undefeated her sophomore year, her club team was ranked fifth her junior year and ranked 10th her senior year in the country, Kern said.
Last year she didn’t see much action because there were experienced seniors ahead of her. Even then, she led all freshmen with 55 kills and 37 total blocks.
‘Last year I brought more emphasis on the defensive side,’ Kern said. ‘This year I’m trying to work on my offensive part of my game.’
When asked about the whole volleyball experience, Kern smiled and replied, ‘It’s been very rewarding and just truly a blessing.’
‘Brittany is very passionate and has a lot of drive,’ Weber said. ‘She wants to do her best no matter what. She is someone who loves volleyball and will always love it.’
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