CHICAGO HEIGHTS | For the last two years in Marian Catholic's resurgent volleyball program, Kendyl Todd has spent most of her time trying to get noticed.
Granted, it's a tough job, given she's played those seasons beside two-time Times Illinois Player of the Year Amber Clay. But you can bet, as they move into their senior season, Todd will be at it again.
The 5-foot-10 middle hitter isn't trying to steal headlines away from Clay. She's trying to steal focus away from those who would try to defend against the Spartans' 5-11, West Point-bound outside hitter, who owns Marian's all-time marks for kills in a game, season and career.
"It's a great feeling to draw the block from an outside or a right side," Todd said after a recent practice. "Even if you're not getting set, to know you were able to get a blocker away from them that much longer, so they could get that perfect end-of-the-game kill - it's as good as getting an actual kill."
Todd gets plenty of those. She was second on the Spartans with 215 kills last season, to Clay's 450, and her 132 blocks lifted her to Marian's career mark in that category.
Think, for a moment, about all that air time. Todd jumped for all those blocks, all her kills, while decoying for many of Clays, and countless other times.
"Kendyl is the perfect middle - unless you're one of those people fixated on huge middles," Marian coach Ryan Summers said. "When you do the position correctly, your middle has to be the hardest worker. It's the hardest position to run energy-wise, effort-wise, constant focus-wise, because you're always moving.
"If she gets set, she's putting the ball away. But any time anybody else is getting set, the reason the block is late is because of Kendyl.
"She probably jumps three or four times every play. Once or twice on the block, once or twice on the hit, and driving off hard, and driving back to the net hard. On top of that, she still brings energy. She's still talking, she's still cheering on everybody else."
Todd has a vertical touch of over 9 1/2 feet, "really good for high school," Summers said.
"And it's not just the touch, it's the explosiveness," he added. "A real big, lumbering middle runs their quick (set) right next to the setter every time. Todd, if you take your eye off her, she's running a quick halfway outside, or she's running a slide behind the setter."
As sophomores, Clay and Todd were the offensive firepower behind a 24-18 team that made a surprising run to fourth place at the Class 3A state tournament. Last season, the Spartans were 28-9 and finished second in the East Suburban Catholic, but lost in a 4A regional final.
This year? They're younger -- most of the other regulars will be juniors -- but they expect to be a little more balanced offensively.
They should all be as balanced as Clay, judging by Todd's answer when asked what part of Clay's game she'd like to have in her own.
"Amber has a lot of enthusiasm. She gets really pumped. That's always great to see," Todd said. "And she's such a smart player. It's like she can read the floor before it happens. She makes these perfect tips. That would be a great thing, too. She's a very well-rounded player. It's hard to pick one thing I'd like to borrow from her."
Clay had no such difficulty when the question was reversed.
"I would probably take her heart," Clay said. "I feel like I have a lot of heart, but Kendyl puts so much into every single game. Win or lose, her whole emotion goes into it - you can tell. I really admire that about her."
Todd fairly glowed when apprised of Clay's answer.
"That's really nice to hear," she said. "Volleyball is my favorite sport, one of my favorite parts of high school. It's nice to know that shows."
She has other favorite parts, including choir. Todd surprised the whole team by singing the national anthem in honor of Marian's lone senior on senior night during her sophomore year, Clay noting, "That's when we all found out Kendyl has a really good voice."