Trying a different sport during her eighth-grade year quickly turned into a second athletic passion for Kenzie McConnell.
“I played soccer in seventh-grade but we didn’t have an eighth-grade team, so I decided to play volleyball for a year and then go back to soccer in high school,” McConnell said. “I wanted to try something new, but I really enjoyed playing volleyball and then making varsity as a freshman and getting to play with the older girls was something to be proud of.
“Volleyball is a fast-pace game in high school that requires quick athletic bursts that is more to my style than running a lot in soccer.”
A late-comer to the game of volleyball, McConnell credits her coaches, starting with Mary Camp and continuing into high school with Crystal Thornsley and Danielle Perkins with helping her learn the game and develop her into the player she is today.
“Coach Camp was really excited when I came out to play and she helped me learn a lot of the fundamentals pretty fast and taught me good habits in eighth-grade,” she said. “When I got to high school, Coach Thornsley taught me so much and helped build my volleyball IQ. She would send me videos about how to read the setter. She’s one of my favorite coaches.
“Coach Perkins took over this year and we’ve built a good relationship. She’s helped me grow as a player in a different perspective, because she’s played the game more recently and relates to us in that way.”
Perkins believes McConnell’s willingness to learn combined with her six-foot frame has led to her success on the floor.
“Kenzie is like a sponge,” she said. “Kenzie is open and willing to take in all knowledge thrown her way and strives to perfect her techniques each time she takes the court.
“Her athleticism gives her a slight advantage over any other “newbie to the game”. Obviously, Kenzie’s physical stature is unteachable, with that we have built new skills and given her different tools and ways to use that to her advantage. She has worked herself into being a six-rotation player and brings a presence to the court that makes the girls more comfortable and trusting.”
McConnell has gradually expanded her game in high school going from primarily being a blocker as a freshman, to leading the team in kills and blocks as a sophomore and becoming a six-rotation player now in her junior season.
“Katie Knul really took me under her wings as a freshman since we both played middle, taught me a bunch of things and helped navigate my way around,” McConnell said. “As a freshman, I knew the seniors deserved to do most of the hitting and I was happy playing varsity and doing what I could as a blocker to help the team.
“I became much more of an offensive threat last season and I’m really proud of becoming a six-rotation player this season. That was a goal of mine as a freshman and sophomore, but it wasn’t something I thought that was likely. I’ve worked hard on trying to become more of an all-around player, and to have the confidence of my coaches and teammates to play in both the front and back row is humbling.”
The Circleville junior leads the team with 319 kills and 97 blocks this season and has also pitched in 187 digs.
McConnell has become known for being one of the top hitters in south central Ohio the last two years and credits her teammates for helping to make that a reality.
“My teammates help me with seeing the floor and finding good spots to hit to,” she said. “I couldn’t do what I do without them.
“It feels so good to come through in a pressure situation with a big hit or if the other team is rolling a double block to me to tip over it or hit away from it. All of that goes back to court awareness.”
A three-sport athlete who also plays basketball and softball, McConnell’s first athletic passion remains basketball but she’s quickly found a second in volleyball.
“Basketball is always going to be my first sport, but I’ve really grown to like volleyball over the last four years and the adrenaline rush it can give you,” she said.