Humphreys assists Sea Kings' success

Take a quick look at Kelsey Humphreys' volleyball career, and it appears the Corona del Mar High junior has been set up for success.

Her mother, aunt and older cousin have also been setters, and very successful ones at that.

Humphreys is a setter too. She's also her own person, which she said is part of the reason nearly five years ago she made the decision to switch volleyball clubs, from Orange County to Laguna Beach.

When your mother won national titles with OCVBC in the early 1980s and starred at Stanford, people – fairly or unfairly – can have certain expectations. Club volleyball can be a close-knit community.

"Everyone always referred to me as, 'Oh, that's Wendy Rush's daughter' or something like that," Humphreys said. "I just wanted to make my own path in volleyball. As much as I wanted to be like her, I also wanted to be a different player."

All the Sea Kings know is that they're happy she's on the court. Humphreys played an instrumental role as Corona del Mar won the Battle of the Bay for the second straight year on Sept. 21. She had a team-high 43 assists and served tough with four service aces as the Sea Kings topped Newport Harbor in four sets, 25-27, 25-22, 25-20, 25-19.

Humphreys also has high expectations for herself. The Daily Pilot Athlete of the Week helped CdM, ranked No. 2 in the CIF Southern Section Division I-A coaches' poll, She is the same girl who made her first varsity start in last year's Battle of the Bay and helped the Sea Kings sweep at home, winning the rivalry match for the first time since 2004.

She is establishing her game on her own terms, but she doesn't mind talking about her volleyball bloodline. Her mother, Wendy, was a CIF Southern Section Division 1-A Player of the Year in 1981 and '82 for Lake Arrowhead Rim of the World, and Division 2-A Player of the Year '83. Rim of the World went on to win CIF Southern Section and Division II state titles each year.

Wendy Humphreys (then Rush) went on to star at Stanford, where she was a four-time All-American and is second on the Stanford all-time list in assists (5,003). She was inducted into the Stanford Athletic Hall of Fame in 2002.

Wendy's older sister, Kari Rush, won a CIF Division 4-A title with Newport Harbor in 1979 — the first in program history — and also was an All-American setter for Stanford. Kari's daughter is Mackenzi Campbell, who helped Newport Harbor win CIF and state titles in 2009 and now plays for UC Irvine. Campbell transferred from Montana State, where she led the team in assists as a freshman.

"Family of setters," Kelsey Humphreys said.

First-year CdM Coach Marissa Booker listened interestedly.

"Interesting conversations in your household, I bet," Booker told her.

The interesting thing about the Sea Kings in the early season is they're playing so well with a first-year coach and after losing 10 seniors to graduation. Humphreys has played a key role on that. They do have experience in senior middle blockers Britton Taylor and Chrissy Watson, and libero Mary McKennon.

Humphreys can also set to her fellow junior outside hitter, Grace Kennedy, or freshman Hayley Hodson. Setting for Hodson, the team's kills leader, isn't a problem. Humphreys said they were already pretty familiar since said they played against each other all club season, when Hodson played up in 16s for TStreet.

Booker called the setter the quarterback of the team. She has confidence in Humphreys as a signal-caller. Humphreys played more and more last year as the season went on, despite the presence of then-senior setter Megan Griffin (now at TCU).

"I think Kelsey's where she's at because of her work ethic," Booker said. "She works extremely hard. She's extremely dedicated to volleyball, and becoming a better player physically and mentally … Kelsey understands the game of volleyball very well. As a coach, it's easy to have someone like her out on the floor as your setter."

That work ethic and that focus weren't always there. The oldest of four children, she started playing volleyball in the fifth grade, but she grew up playing soccer, basketball and softball, too. She described herself as uncoordinated when she was younger, but as Humphreys' skills grew, so did her confidence.

"My competitiveness didn't really come out until my eighth grade or freshman year," Humphreys said. "I was always kind of like the daisy-picker on the soccer field. Now I look back at it like, 'Oh, that's so silly! Why wouldn't I want to win?"

Now her competitiveness is one of her strengths. With her abilities and height (6-foot), she can save a ball that a shorter setter maybe couldn't get to, or she can become more offensive and dump the ball.

"There's always something new you can learn with the sport," Humphreys said. "You can never stop improving. As a setter, I have to know what's going on, on the court, at all times."

With Humphreys, CdM is also set up for success.

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Kelsey Humphreys

Born: Jan. 17, 1995

Hometown: Newport Beach

Height: 6-0

Sport: Volleyball

Coach: Marissa Booker

Favorite food: Mangoes

Favorite movie: "The Pink Panther"

Favorite athletic moment: Helping CdM win Battle of the Bay last year, sweeping at home against rival Newport Harbor.

Week in review: The junior setter had team-bests of 43 assists and four service aces as CdM won the Battle of the Bay in four sets, at Newport Harbor on Sept. 17. She also had 38 assists in a four-set victory over divisional foe Laguna Beach on Sept. 13.

matthew.szabo@latimes.com

Twitter: @mjszabo

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