By Amber Dowdy

MUSKEGON – Opponents have come to respect, and even fear, Rachel Brown on the volleyball court.

As Muskegon Community College volleyball coach Rick Rykse puts it, “She has become one of the mostLSJ Logo incert dominant middle hitters” in the nation.

That’s what happens when somebody loves what they do. They become better than most of their peers, because they are driven by pure passion.

And Brown is definitely passionate about volleyball.

MCC's Rachel Brown gets ready off the set in a match against GRCC on Sept. 15. Photo/Leo Valdez

MCC’s Rachel Brown gets ready to return the ball in a match against GRCC on Sept. 15. Photo/Leo Valdez

“I love playing,” said Brown, a sophomore standout the MCC volleyball team, “This is the thing I want to do most.  This is the thing I want to do when I’m stressed, when I’m happy, and when I’m sad. Volleyball just makes me happy.”

Brown’s play this year has definitely made her coaches and teammates happy.

She leads the Jayhawks – and is fourth in the nation among Division 2 junior college teams – with an impressive 316 kills. She is ranked 32nd nationally in kills per set.

Brown is a big reason by the MCC volleyball team is having another big year, with a 19-9 overall record and an 8-1 mark in the Michigan Community College Athletic Association Western Conference. The team is one game behind first-place Grand Rapids Community College in the conference.

Brown was good last year as a freshman, but she’s become a force as a sophomore.

“Rachel has really brought her game to another level this year,” Rykse said. “She is a much more consistent player and has the ability to take over a match through her hitting and blocking.”

Brown came to MCC with promising credentials, earning first team All-Conference, first team All-Region, first team All-Area, and honorable mention All-State honors at Whitehall High School.

She also came with a winning pedigree. Whitehall has long been one of the top high school volleyball programs in the area, dominating the West Michigan Conference for years.

But she says the college game is much different than high school, and she feels like she’s made the complete transition this season.

“Last year as a freshman it was all about learning college volleyball,” said Brown, who’s been playing the sport since the seventh grade. “This year I am perfecting everything.”

Brown is far from being the only talented player on the MCC roster, but as a second-year veteran, she feels a responsibility to help her teammates develop their skills, so the Jayhawks can reach their maximum potential.

“It’s nice being a sophomore,” she said. “I feel more comfortable taking a leadership role. I’m always trying to help everyone else, and in turn they do the same for me.”

Brown definitely wants to continue her collegiate volleyball career when she’s done at MCC, and according to Rykse, that shouldn’t be a problem.

“She’s being sought by many four-year schools to continue to play volleyball next year,” the coach said.

At the moment Brown is focused on helping her team push past GRCC in the conference standings, then play for regional and possibly even national honors.

The Jayhawks are currently listed “honorable mention” in the Division 2 national rankings, but have beaten some top competition at various tournaments this year.

“At the beginning of the year our whole team gets together and we write a list of all our goals,” she said. “We want to be first in the conference, and we want to make it to nationals. This year we are really hoping to place in the top five in the nationals.

“Right now all of our losses are from ranked teams. We just beat the number 4 team in the nation, which was big for us.  We are just an honorable mention ranked team.

“I love that our coach has us compete against great teams, because it really helps us get better as a team.”