State volleyball champ picks Illini

By JEFF HUTH

Setter McKenna Kelsay, who guided Wheaton St. Francis to a state volleyball title last fall, has orally committed to Illinois.

The 5-foot-8 senior announced her decision this week on Twitter.

“She’s the real deal,” St. Francis coach Peg Kopec said Friday. “She’s a very athletic, talented girl. Very competitive.”

During her two seasons as a starting setter for the Spartans, the team finished third and first in the IHSA Class 3A state tournament.

Kelsay also played as a back-row specialist and backup setter for a national AAU champion in 2012 with the Aurora-based Sports Performance Volleyball Club’s 18 Red team.

“They’re getting a really good player,” Troy Gilb, the associate director of Sports Performance, said. “Good all-around skills. Can hit, set, play defense, pass.”

Kelsay selected Illinois over Michigan State, where her older sister — junior Kristen Kelsay — is a starting setter. According to Gilb, McKenna Kelsay will receive a scholarship for two of her four academic years at the UI, most likely during her sophomore and senior seasons.

The next signing period for Class of 2013 volleyball commitments begins April 17.

Kelsay, a 2012 News-Gazette All-State Special Mention 50 selection, drew particular praise from Kopec for her defensive skills. “The best defensive setter I have ever had,” said Kopec, who coached 2003 Illini All-America setter Erin Virtue at St. Francis. “The only negative I can think of is she’s not the tallest setter. But she’s quick, she’s athletic, she can set all of the (types of) sets. She doesn’t just throw a high ball out there.”

Kelsay recorded 921 assists and 261 digs while committing three service errors for a 37-5 Spartans team last season.

Gilb pointed to the intangibles that Kelsay will bring to the UI program.

“She’s going to help with the gym culture down there,” he said. “A tireless worker, very good teammate, and very dedicated to team success. She’s not one to put a lot of attention on herself.”

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