Volleyball

The surprising, rarely seen side of Mattie Kelly

There are two versions of Mattie Kelly.

The one you’re likely to see is the bubbly, outgoing high school senior at West Salem who tries to learn the names of two new people each day and says hi to people whether she knows them or not as she walks down the hallways.

West Salem volleyball player Mattie Kelly stands for a photo at West Salem High School on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016.

West Salem volleyball player Mattie Kelly stands for a photo at West Salem High School on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016.

She’s the setter you see at volleyball matches, the one who gets along with every hitter in a perfect harmony on the court, the one who instigates dance videos before matches and is happy to show off her perfectly painted fingernails.

Then there’s “Deep Mattie.”

Most people will never see “Deep Mattie.”

“Deep Mattie” is the one who overanalyzes situations, both on the volleyball court and off it, focuses too hard on her mistakes and can be surprisingly introverted.

And she doesn’t smile.

That’s the tell when it’s “Deep Mattie” to whom you’re speaking.

“It’s not that I’m mad, I’m focused and I’m thinking about a lot of things,” she said. “I’m focused on whatever’s happening.

“If I have a group project, leadership for example, I’m involved in leadership at the school, and when a project is coming up I want things to happen so it’s successful for everyone else. I’m very focused like you’re going to do this, you’re going to do this. I’m very just kind of in my head if I’m doing a poster or something, I don’t talk to anybody and I just do my poster.”

The regular version of Mattie Kelly is the one who believes that when her nails are painted well that she will play volleyball well.

“Now when I see your nails are bad I’m going to judge you,” West Salem coach Katie Herber told her.

“I just feel like whenever my nails look good I can see them and I’m like, okay, yeah, man,” said Kelly, who also plays softball for West Salem. “This is the only thing I do to make myself feel put together. I don’t get my nails done very often.”

Kelly’s on-court contributions to West Salem’s volleyball team – which is 14-0 in the Greater Valley Conference, 20-2 overall and No. 2 in the OSAA’s power rankings – are so great that you would think her nails always are perfect.

Kelly possesses rare attributes for a setter at the high school level.

Between the gift of height at 5-foot-11 and athleticism, she is a legitimate blocker at the net.

West Salem middle blocker Delaney Smith (6) and Mattie Kelly (10) attempt a block against Sunset during the fourth place gameof the 6A state volleyball playoffs, Saturday, November 7, 2015, at Liberty High School in Hillsboro, Ore. West Salem lost 3-2 to place sixth.

West Salem middle blocker Delaney Smith (6) and Mattie Kelly (10) attempt a block against Sunset during the fourth place gameof the 6A state volleyball playoffs, Saturday, November 7, 2015, at Liberty High School in Hillsboro, Ore. West Salem lost 3-2 to place sixth.

It’s hard to find that combination in one player.

“I think the thing that Mattie has for her is her timing really good on the block, and she sets the block really well,” Herber said. “It’s more than just jumping in an area, it’s lining with their shoulder and knowing when to jump. She does a really good job with that, but she’s fairly tall.

“It’s hard to find a tall, athletic setter that walks in the gym. You usually don’t find that.”

She could rack up a lot of assists in each match by setting the ball on every play in the general direction of all-star outside hitter Paige Whipple and letting her hit.

But that’s not what Kelly does.

She has a knack for reading opponents, figuring out where their weaknesses are and exploiting that with her hitters.

Kelly said it takes time and practice to adjust to the differing speeds with which to set for her hitters, but it looks easy when she does it.

“She balances out the court really well and makes us good all the way around and not just one hitter. We don’t just run the outside, and that’s kudos to her because she’s bought into everybody on the team having a place.”

But Kelly didn’t always want to play volleyball.

She describes a youth spent as the younger sibling of a club volleyball player of travelling around from tournament to tournament and watching so much volleyball that she gravitated away from the game.

She enjoyed the travelling aspect – she has fond memories of her first trip to Pike’s Market in Seattle as part of going to a tournament – and was the girl designated to shag the balls for the older girls.

West Salem's Mattie Kelly (10) sets the ball gainst Sunset during the fourth place gameof the 6A state volleyball playoffs, Saturday, November 7, 2015, at Liberty High School in Hillsboro, Ore. West Salem lost 3-2 to place sixth.

West Salem’s Mattie Kelly (10) sets the ball gainst Sunset during the fourth place gameof the 6A state volleyball playoffs, Saturday, November 7, 2015, at Liberty High School in Hillsboro, Ore. West Salem lost 3-2 to place sixth.

But she didn’t want to play the game.

“I’m not playing volleyball,” she said of her attitude at the age. “I don’t want to do it. I’m tired of going to all of these tournaments.”

She finally played volleyball for the first time in the sixth grade. Not surprisingly she knew a lot about the game and was good at it.

It’s also not surprising that she’s quickly risen through the ranks, from beginner to the starting setter for West Salem as a sophomore to the first-team all-league player as a junior and the emotional leader for the Titans now.

“She’s in her own category,” Herber said.

bpoehler@StatesmanJournal.com, 503-399-6701 or Twitter.com/bpoehler

West Salem volleyball player Mattie Kelly stands for a photo at West Salem High School on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016.

West Salem volleyball player Mattie Kelly stands for a photo at West Salem High School on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016.

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