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Libero plays guardian for women’s volleyball

Sophomore+libero+Brooke+Russell+poses+in+the+South+Gym+before+her+game+against+Mt.+San+Antonio+College+on+Tuesday%2C+Nov.+10.+Russell+ended+the+season+with+330+total+digs%2C+which+placed+her+at+No.+1+in+the+South+Coast+Conference+and+No.+34+in+the+state.+Photo+credit%3A+John+Fordiani
Sophomore libero Brooke Russell poses in the South Gym before her game against Mt. San Antonio College on Tuesday, Nov. 10. Russell ended the season with 330 total digs, which placed her at No. 1 in the South Coast Conference and No. 34 in the state. Photo credit: John Fordiani

Sophomore libero Brooke Russell poses in the South Gym before her game against Mt. San Antonio College on Tuesday, Nov. 10. Russell ended the season with 330 total digs, which placed her at No. 1 in the South Coast Conference and No. 34 in the state. Photo credit: John Fordiani

Sophomore libero Brooke Russell poses in the South Gym before her game against Mt. San Antonio College on Tuesday, Nov. 10. Russell ended the season with 330 total digs, which placed her at No. 1 in the South Coast Conference and No. 34 in the state. Photo credit: John Fordiani

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The bright, gym lights reflected off the player’s green eyes, which are focused and glaring down the opposing player getting ready to serve.

The 20-year-old woman’s 5-foot-5-inch frame stands on the court and her hands wait to receive.

The serve goes up; then flies her way.

It lands dead center on her arms – nothing but excitement – her pass goes toward the setter and is tossed perfectly to the outside hitter.

The attack hits the floor for a kill and the crowd goes wild as the team gathers in the middle of the court; point for El Camino.

“When everyone makes a good play I get the chills,” Brooke Russell said, knowing she did a good job and her team finished the play strong. “It makes me feel good when the hitters get a good kill.”

The South High graduate and starting libero finished the season leading the team with 330 digs, which placed her at No. 1 in the conference and No. 34 in the state for overall digs.

Russell also grabbed the No. 2 spot in the conference and No. 33 in the state for overall digs per set, with 4.23.

The love for the game all started at the age of 10 for Russell when she played outside with her brothers, her father Shaun said.

“Her brothers used to (hit) the ball to her,” he said. “It made her not afraid of the ball at a young age.”

Her father was not surprised at how well she is doing on the team because of how athletic she is and because of the coaching she’s received.

“When she was younger, she played soccer,” he said. “It was quite apparent that she was quick and agile; and the coaching staff from EC (really gave) her the confidence in the athleticism she had, it’s easy to see how she’s doing well.”

Women’s volleyball coach Le Valley Pattison said that Russell has really grown as a libero and really developed as a mentally-strong player.

“It took a little while to get there,” Pattison said. “She’s (beginning) to understand and see that (as a leader) she can change the energy of the team. It’s not only when she has a good day that she needs to be a leader.”

Pattison added that Russell has become an established leader on the court for the team.

But Russell’s life isn’t all about what happens on the court; she is studying to be a liberal arts major in school and her social life and friendships are a big part of what makes her unique.

“I like taking classes (for liberal arts),” she said. “It makes school a lot more enjoyable and I like all the classes I (have).”

Sophomore middle blocker Nia Masui, who has lived close to Russell for a long time, is one of her best friends and said that Russell is an awesome friend off of the court as well as a great teammate on it.

“(Russell) is encouraging, energetic and a lot of fun (as a teammate),” Masui said. “(But off the court) she’s caring, considerate, outgoing and just makes you want to be a better person. I have a lot of favorite moments with her.”

So whether she’s out and about with her friends, being the heart of the defense on a top-ranked women’s volleyball team or studying in class to a liberal arts major; you’ll find Russell thoroughly enjoying her life.

UPDATE DEC. 9, 2015 9:30 a.m.: Russell’s age has been fixed, she turned 20 on Dec. 4.

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Libero plays guardian for women’s volleyball