Belle Of The (Volley)Ball

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Kelli Heffer leaves on an All County high note

Heffer attempting a big spike

When the Plainedge Lady Red Devils walked off the court after being swept by the Bellmore JFK Lady Cougars in the first round of this year’s Conference A2 playoffs, it was the last hurrah for Kelli Heffer. During her four years on the varsity squad, she left quite a mark on the team. This year, the senior was named All County, the second consecutive season she was accorded this honor. The Plainedge native was also named All County Honorable Mention in her sophomore year and given school team MVP two years in a row. To perform at this high level, Heffer admits she’s had to focus on growing her game on a few different levels.

“Volleyball is an incredibly big mental sport and it’s hard when you’re in the middle of a game and you’re not doing too well, to try and pick other people up as well as yourself. Getting to this point in terms of becoming better and improving has just been a really big mental and physical growth for me,” she said. “It means that I’m always working hard and giving 110 percent, which is really important. I have to always make sure that I’m not only bringing myself up, but doing the same for my teammates.”

Kelli Heffer getting ready to pass a serve from an opposing team
(Photo courtesy of Kelli Heffer)

Physical education teacher Colin Fratrik, who has coached Heffer for the past two years ever since he took over the varsity girls volleyball program, is well aware of the myriad assets his 5’9” outside hitter brings to the Lady Red Devils.
“I don’t have the exact numbers but I think she finished third during the regular season in the county in kills. I want to say fourth in aces. So she was top 10 in three very important categories,” Fratrik explained. “While she was obviously the best player on the team, Kelli brought overall leadership to [the Lady Red Devils]. Everyone else on the team looks up to her in game time and practices. They see how hard she practices and her overall leadership reflects how well the team responds to it and how it picks up the game of the other players based on what she does.”

Heffer has been playing volleyball since fifth grade. (“It’s always been a thing my family has been around, so it’s something I got into once I was old enough to start playing.”) In doing so, she followed in the footsteps of older sister Sam, who currently works in the marketing department of Hershey Entertainment after graduating from Western New England University, where she played collegiate volleyball. The younger Heffer takes the sport very seriously. She plays year-round—beach volleyball during the summer and with Sport Team Volleyball Club out of Bethpage during her school’s off season. And when the Lady Red Devils hit the court from the August to late October season, Heffer is happy to participate in two-hour, six-day-a-week practices to hone her considerable skills.
“I like volleyball because it’s a fast-paced game where the ball is always moving. One of my favorite moments is winning. Either getting a game-winning point or winning a close game—it all makes the sport that much better for you,” she said.

Kelli Heffer serving a ball into play to start a rally.
(Photo courtesy of Kelli Heffer)

Other school extracurricular events include the National Honor Society, Forensics Club, student council and a physical therapy internship outside of school. Chemistry and biology are favorite classes for her. It’s all part of her higher education plan.
“I have not committed to college yet, but my top school that I’m 99 percent sure I’m going to attend is Lebanon Valley College in Pennsylvania. I want to be a physical therapist,” she said.

Success has come via the foundation of an incredibly supportive family and Heffer’s assertion of how fortunate she’s been to play volleyball in the Plainedge School District.
“The great thing about being a student here is that we are a small school so everybody knows each other. All the athletes try to go to each other’s games and support other teams, which is nice,” she said.

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