Parents' legacy drives South Kitsap's Brown-Bell | Volleyball

South Kitsap senior Toni Brown-Bell said her mentality to improve in every facet of life is derived from her parents, who were killed in a car accident when she was an infant. - Greg Skinner/Staff Photo
South Kitsap senior Toni Brown-Bell said her mentality to improve in every facet of life is derived from her parents, who were killed in a car accident when she was an infant.
— image credit: Greg Skinner/Staff Photo

Each day holds value for South Kitsap senior Toni Brown-Bell.

They present new opportunities for improvement in every facet of life.

It is a mentality she cultivated for her parents — the ones she never had an opportunity to know. When Brown-Bell was nine months old, her parents, who only had been married for a dozen days, were out meeting with friends. But the couple never returned to their Hermiston, Ore., home.

Brown-Bell said no one knows the details other than her parents somehow veered off the road. Her mother was killed instantly, while her father died nine days later. She went to live in Port Orchard with her grandparents. Brown-Bell’s paternal grandfather was raised here.

“It has made me strive to be my best,” Brown-Bell said. “I want to achieve everything they set out to do.”

That mentality extends to both academics and athletics. Brown-Bell already is aiming to earn her associates degree as a Running Start student this spring from Olympic College. Because she will have completed two years of college, Brown-Bell is weighing whether she wants to continue onto a four-year university to play volleyball. She desires to become a dental hygienist — an aspiration she does not know where originated from — and might prefer to finish her requirements in that field and get into the job market sooner.

That means this could be Brown-Bell’s final season playing volleyball. Despite that, she said her focus is no different than any other year. Brown-Bell, an outside hitter, said she began playing the sport at the behest of friends when she was in junior high. Just playing was not enough for her, though. Brown-Bell immediately thrust herself into club volleyball with an eye toward improving as much as possible. She now commutes to Puyallup three days per week to play with Puget Sound Volleyball Academy. Brown-Bell played in the USVA Junior Nationals in 2011 in Georgia.

“We’re pretty competitive in our region,” she said.

In addition to her skills and adaptability — Brown-Bell temporarily moved to setter while teammate Mikaela Strutz nursed a sprained thumb — South coach Jessica Olsen praised her leadership qualities.

“She’s definitely focused, serious and driven on the court,” said Olsen, adding that Brown-Bell also connects well with teammates because of her sense of humor. “She has the leadership abilities that carry us through tough times.”

The Wolves’ obstacles have been a little different this season. In Class 4A Narrows League play, they only defeated Mount Tahoma and Shelton — both schools now compete in 3A Narrows – the last two years. This season has been a little different as South has been more competitive with some of the league’s top teams, including taking defending state champion Olympia to five games in a Sept. 20 loss.

“We’re doing pretty well this year,” Brown-Bell said.

Of course, she aspires for more than that, including a playoff spot that has eluded the Wolves during her time on campus.

“I’m excited to see how we do the second time we face these [Narrows] teams,” Brown-Bell said. “I feel like we’re coming together well.”

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