Vicki Brown brings a lot of energy to the Illini.
Aug. 9, 2007
The Big Ten Network is set to launch on Aug. 30 providing fans of its 11 schools conference programming 24 hours a day/seven days per week. In addition to expanding coverage of football and basketball, Illini fans will get a chance to see some of the stars of Olympic sports that are making headlines. This is the fourth in a series of profiles on athletes you have likely read about, but perhaps never had a chance to see their talents.
"Vicki Brown has always been able to lighten us up and give us comic relief at times," said Illinois volleyball coach Don Hardin. "What we're seeing more out her than ever before is her intensity, competitiveness, and mental toughness."
Vicki Brown has been a fan favorite since she stepped onto the floor in an Illinois uniform. She is a little flashy, hard working and has a personality that is contagious to the Illinois fans. Now entering her senior year, the Toledo, Ohio, native is ready to lead a young Illini team back into the national spotlight. Illinois has brought in five top-100 players, good for the sixth-ranked recruiting class in the nation according to prepvolleyball.com.
Brown, an honorable mention All-Big Ten selection a year ago, is the only player in her fourth season with the Illini and promises to be a driving force in the athletic Illinois line-up. Hardin says that Brown exudes more confidence than ever before, due in part to her experience in May with USA National A2 team.
Of the 110 players invited to an open try-out in Colorado Springs, Colo., Brown was one of 20 invited to compete in the USA Open Volleyball Tournament in Austin, Texas, as members of two USA Volleyball A2 teams.
"Vicki was exposed to a very high level of play and discovered that she can be competitive in that environment," Hardin said.
"I learned what it is like to play at an even higher level of volleyball," Brown adds. "Being able to see myself at a different level of play will transfer to my confidence this fall."
Brown got off to a fast start last season, hitting .342 in the first month of the season and ranking among the best nationally in hitting percentage. Over that span, Brown was named to the All-Tournament team in all three pre season tournaments, and was named MVP of two of those. She was also named the Illini MVP.
The athletic middle blocker epitomizes the team player. That is one of the reasons she chose to pursue volleyball. "You have to have all six players playing well together all the time to be successful," she said.
Brown understands her role in helping bring out the talents of the younger players and it hasn't gone unnoticed by her teammates through the first two days of practice.
"Vicki's been there to give us pointers and the atmosphere has been extremely positive," said fellow middle blocker and high school All-American Johannah Bangert.
Brown is the only player on the team to have played in an NCAA Tournament and knows what it takes to get the team back into that echelon. "I have to be more of an example setter," Brown said. "I want to help everyone stay focused on the goals we have set and to compete as a team to achieve those goals. I want to leave the program by giving it a boost in the right direction."
Hardin says that it's Brown's confidence that has led her to not only be a more potent hitter, but also a more consistent one.
"Vicki has been seasoned these past few years with tremendous experience blocking middle in the Big Ten and being successful with that," Hardin said. "After her experience with the national team, she sees her senior year as a an opportunity to springboard into something professionally or with our national team, so I know she is very motivated. Her progression physically with her experience should make her one of the top middles in the Big Ten."