As most little sisters do, Briana Lilly wanted to be like her big sister, Cameron, and become a volleyball player.
The following in her footsteps stopped there.
Cameron Lilly quit volleyball by the end of middle school and went on to be a swimmer and a drama student. Briana carved out her path and is a leader on one of T.F. South’s best-ever volleyball teams.
Lilly went into the week with 208 kills, 65 blocks, 59 service points and 21 aces for the 19-5 Rebels, who are at the top of the South Suburban Blue.
“Volleyball has always been No. 1 for me,” the 6-foot-1 Butler-bound senior said. “I don’t like individual sports. I like being part of a team and having somebody there to support you if you mess up.”
Not that it happens very often.
When teammate Gabrielle Mullen sets the middle and Lilly swings, it doesn’t often come back. As part of a trio of power hitters that includes Crystal Lee and Jenna Pasko, Lilly cuts an imposing figure.
“I love the middle,” Lilly said. “I’m always on my toes. There is nothing like a really good block. But I certainly get enough sets from my setter. And whenever she sets me it’s a kill.”
Lilly cut her volleyball teeth at Heritage Middle School in Lansing. She started playing in sixth grade.
“I think the height definitely helped with the volleyball element,” she said. “Back in sixth grade everybody played everything, so it took me about a year to get my footing.”
Basketball also was a possibility, and Lilly didn’t lack for encouragement.
“Oh, there were some valiant efforts to try to get me to do it from my dad and every other adult in the school,” she said, smiling. “But we quickly learned that I was not good at that sport.
“I went to two tryouts and didn’t make one basket. On the second day I was kind of getting into it, and we were playing a scrimmage and I ran the ball all the way to the hoop. I threw it, it bounced off the rim and went into my nose. I went home.”
On the flip side, she excelled in volleyball, especially after joining the Diamond Elite club team during her freshman year at T.F. South.
By her sophomore season, Lilly had improved so much she was brought up to the varsity team. Since then, South has a record of 71-18.
“It’s great to have someone like Briana as a leader and as a role model,” Rebels coach Kim Sands said. “The girls look up to her. I think a lot of them want to be like her. She’s just a great, positive person, and positive attitude spreads.
“Being 6-1, she is just untouchable at the net. She goes over every block, she adjusts in the air, and she looks to sees what’s open. She is extremely smart.”
It shows in the classroom. Lilly is the vice president of the senior class, the student council and the National Honor Society. She volunteers as a counselor at a leadership camp that takes place one week every year in Monticello.
“Being a leader is a big part of my life,” Lilly said. “I just want to know that I inspired people to make them better. We have such a good program, with good coaches and good people.
“I want people to represent T.F. South like I did, and love it like I did.”