MILLBURY — Every coach in every sport relishes the opportunity to have that singularly dynamic athlete who can be counted on to produce from start to finish. Millbury High School girls’ volleyball head coach Mike McKeon just happens to be one of the fortunate ones to enjoy such a luxury with senior co-captain Lauren Kelly out there front and center for the maroon and gold.
“On the court, Lauren is one of the only players we have that stays on the floor for all six rotations,” said McKeon. “She is a player that, just knowing that she’s on the court, gives you a sense of calm and confidence because she can handle any ball in any position. Lauren understands the hard work and dedication that is necessary to be successful, but she also is able to keep things in perspective in regards to what is best for the team and as much as she wants to be on the court for every single point, she understands that sometimes it’s her turn to give a younger, less experienced teammate some playing time. Lauren’s value to our team and program goes way beyond her statistics.”
Such may be the case, but those statistics aren’t to be overlooked, either. In 2019, she was third on the team with 38 aces and 95 digs to go along with an impressive 62 kills that placed her in the top five. She was a first-team SWCL A all-star and a T&G Superteam honorable mention with likely more in numbers and accomplishments lying ahead.
“I’ve always been active growing up and I love working out in the off-season and in-season sometimes,” said Kelly, an outside hitter, of her training regimen. “I exercise as much as possible, so in games I can last long and help my teammates as much as I can.
“Coach McKeon has had a major impact on me both on and off the court. He has made a point of showing his confidence in me since freshman year and it has only made me more self confident. Coach has always made me strive to be better and expected a lot out of me and I’ve grown from that.”
Off the court, Kelly volunteers at middle school volleyball clinics that help allow the future varsity players an opportunity to get an early glimpse of life at the higher level. She has played club and school volleyball since eighth grade and remembers all too well those daunting early years when she was the lone freshman on the varsity squad.
“As a freshman, I didn’t play that much which was expected, but as the season went on, my coach started putting me in more and more,” she recalled. “That really built up my confidence which has led me to where I am now. The experience helped motivate me to get a lot better. All the girls on the team were amazing. They were very welcoming. I was very intimidated, but I overcame it.”
Kelly has embraced her co-captaincy role from the start and her proclivity for keeping things light off the court and focused on, makes her a perfect fit. She also stresses communication on the court, a key element to any volleyball team’s success.
“We always try to have team sleepovers in the beginning and team bonding activities,” said Kelly, who aspires to a career in nursing. “Before the game, we get in a huddle and do the cheer that we do every game. That brings everyone together and gets them excited and that makes it fun.
“Communication on the court is so important. Every ball that goes over the net and every touch, you have to know who’s getting it so you’re not running into each other or someone knocks you over and the ball hits the ground. Sometimes if you don’t call the ball it’ll land between two people. In order to play the game, there has to be good communication.”
“Lauren is a quiet leader. Not as vocal as some of her other teammates, but chooses rather to lead by example with her dedication and perseverance,” said McKeon. “Off the court she has a similar demeanor, but perhaps her greatest quality off the court is her willingness to give back to our program. In 17 years of coaching I have had only a couple other players like Lauren that were the whole package — a great player, a great teammate, a great student, but above all else, a great person.”