Girls volleyball: Willowbrook junior Kenny commits to Marquette

Calli Kenny can recall attending Marquette University volleyball camps at a very young age and attending matches in Milwaukee.

It's a school she always knew about, and holds a connection to through her club program.

Now she's ready to call it her next home.

The Willowbrook junior, who led her high school program to its first sectional title as a sophomore and followed that up with a 36-win season last fall, made her verbal commitment to Marquette on Monday.

Kenny joins a Marquette program coming off a 29-4 season, reaching the NCAA Tournament regional semifinals for the second time in school history with a Big East Conference championship. The Golden Eagles have averaged 28 wins over the last four full seasons under head coach Ryan Theis.

Volleyball, though, was just one part of the pull to Marquette for Kenny.

"The reason I decided on Marquette is because it has a really good balance of everything. It has a really good volleyball program but also really good academics," said Kenny, who is considering studying physical therapy or nutrition. "It also has a culture that I can see myself being a part of.

"The coaches are super nice and have a good reputation. The head coach has been there for a while, and I've heard nothing but nice things and been super successful. It just checked all the boxes. Plus it's close enough that my family can come watch me."

Kenny, who made visits to Illinois State, Vanderbilt, VCU and Northern Colorado in addition to Marquette, said she talked to Marquette last summer, and an offer was extended about three weeks ago.

But the connection ran deep.

Meghan Keck, the recruiting director at the First Alliance volleyball club that Kenny plays for, was previously an assistant coach at Marquette. Kenny said that Marquette recruits players from their club.

"I kind of knew what they needed and knew what I wanted, and we got the process moving," Kenny said. "I went on a visit a few weeks ago and had to make a decision."

Kenny as a sophomore led Willowbrook to a 37-2 record with 30 straight wins to start the season. This past fall, she had a team-high 260 kills, 236 digs (second on Willowbrook), team-high 79 aces (breaking her school record), 323 assists and 29 blocks as Willowbrook went 36-3 with a 29-match win streak and reached its second straight sectional final.

Kenny's mom, Andrea Miller, was a three-sport star at Willowbrook who also played volleyball, basketball and softball collegiately at Austin Peay.

Kenny herself played all three sports her freshman year at Willowbrook as well - but she knew quite early that volleyball was her future.

"Honestly, ever since I started playing club volleyball I really enjoyed being a part of successful teams with great coaches, with great environments and great teammates. It made me love the sport more," said Kenny, who will likely be a setter at Marquette. "I love the fast-paced game. Probably in middle school I kind of knew that volleyball was the sport I wanted to play. I always enjoyed it. I think I have known for a long time."

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