MCC Volleyball back after 409-day 'layoff'
When the McCook Community College volleyball team suits up at home Feb. 5, it will be the first time in 474 days the team has played in the Peter and Dolores Graff Events Center. When the season starts Friday, it will be the first time in 409 days since the team played at all. Because of the pandemic, for the first time since MCC began playing volleyball in 1974, the Lady Indians switch from a fall schedule to the spring. The switch also condenses the schedule by 11 games this spring.
“We’re just thankful we’re going to be able to have a season, no matter who we play or what the schedule looks like,” said MCC Volleyball Coach Hayley Kobza.
Kobza said the biggest concern for her when the NJCAA postponed fall sports was figuring out how to keep players committed and involved. For every player, the mindset has been completely different this year as they shift from a three-month season sprint to what has become a mind-grueling long-distance race. Region IX established practice day and hour limits for all teams. Some weeks the team could practice 20 hours and others just eight.
“What seems to have worked is just working full-throttle whenever we can,” Kobza said. “The girls have still remained committed and invested not only in volleyball but also in the academics and conditioning since the first day of classes.”
With a shorter schedule this year it places a higher premium on region and conference games, so Kobza said the full-throttle mindset will be even more important.
The only games that will have no impact on standings will be two tournaments (four games each) to begin the season and one nonconference match. The season opens in Scottsbluff Friday and Saturday at the Western Nebraska Crossover Classic. The other tournament is the MCC Invite on Feb. 5-6.
“So after those eight games, there is no time to feel bad or feel sorry for ourselves, or think about past games. We have got to move forward every single match,” Kobza said. “There’ll be no time to step back.”
The schedule between Feb. 12 and March 18 includes home-and-home matches with the five other Region IX South Division opponents the three other teams in the Nebraska Community College Athletic Conference.
A core group of six sophomores will lead the squad this spring, including three who earned post-season honors during their freshman campaign. Several will be moving to new positions on the court.
Fernanda Canedo, (5-9, Cochabamba, Boliva) was selected All-Region IX South, all-tournament and the World-Herald’s All-Nebraska team. As an outside hitter she led the Lady Indians with 429 kills, second most in the south division (14th most in the nation). She averaged 3.30 kills per set, and had 1,216 total attacks on the season, totals which ranked third and second in the division, along with 33 service aces, 434 digs, 22 solo blocks, and scored 504 points on the year – all totals which ranked in the top 10 for players in the Region IX South.
“Fernanda was standout for our team and region and she’s going to move over to right side where I think she’ll be a good option over there and yet we can also move her back to outside if we need to.”
As a freshman Kallie Cathcart, (5-7, middle, Holly, Colo.) was named to the All-Region IX South team. Despite missing 10 games because of injury, she had 77 block assists on the year (third most in the south, 10 solo blocks and 87 total blocks – all totals which ranked in the top 20 for players in the south division. In addition, she also received honorable mention on the 2019 Omaha World-Herald All-Nebraska college team. In the 27 matches in which she played she had 135 kills, (1.53 kills per set) and 45 digs.
“Kallie has moved back to her original position as outside and she will be a dominating force in that positon,” Kobza said.
Heiata Tauota, (5-8, Nantes, France) took over primary setting duties mid-way through her freshman campaign. She played in 35 matches in 2019, started 17, and had a team-high 607 assists (5.23 per set). She was also credited with 165 digs, 24 kills and 18 service aces. She received honorable mention on the Omaha World-Herald All-Nebraska college team. Kobza said Heiata is coming back strong but like all the positions “everyone is completing against somebody else for playing time.”
“She has physically put in a lot of work and she is a completely different player. She’s quicker and lighter and has really worked hard to improve,” Kobza said.
Mackenzie Anderson (5-8, Hyannis) played in 34 matches as a freshman outside hitter. She had 398 attacks, 111 kills, (1.32 kills per set), 85 Digs, 35 block assists, nine assists and seven service aces. She has battled knee issues according to the coach, but is working strong and has several schools interested in her for next year. Anderson will play the right side this season.
Emily Barr, (5-10, middle, Hershey) played in 35 matches in the fall of 2019 and had 111 kills, 59 digs and 63 blocks. She led the team with a .262 hitting percentage and 44 service aces. This season she will move to the outside. “She keeps getting stronger every day. She will be a six-rotational outside hitter and improved tremendously since last year,” Kobza said.
Team captain Evie Hopkinson (5-6, defensive specialist/libero) didn’t see the court having sat out her freshman year.
“Evie is a redshirt freshman who has continued to improve every semester. She not only is an excellent student in the classroom, but she pushes herself and her teammates every day on the court and in the weight room,” Kobza said.
One advantage to a shift to a spring schedule is that six incoming freshmen have had more time to develop and adjust to playing at the collegiate level:
· Eisa Mondragon (5-3 libero, Topeka, Kan.) is a “scrappy player that has come ready to make a difference on our team,” Kobza said.
· Kaylee Pomeree (5-7 setter/libero, Gibbon) was originally recruited as a setter and now was moved to a defensive specialist during fall drills. “She is excelling at that position, reminds me of a past player -- Brooklyn Evans – who did the same thing,” Kobza said.
· Jamie Sommer (6-0 setter, Maxwell) is a triple threat across the board. “She’s a lefty setter, has been hitting really well, and she can play back-row defense,” Kobza said. “She’ll be one for sure one to be watching this year and next.”
· Amerika Jones (6-0, middle, Honolulu, Hawaii) came to MCC as a walk-on, but the coach has been pleased with the six-footer’s improvement over her first semester. “She’s strong and has good attitude and is looking at starting in the middle.”
· Kobza said Suzy Cordova, (5-10 middle from Fort Collins, Colo.) is one of the players who has probably improved the most in the shortest amount of time and continues to improve every day.
· Jordan Jerome (5-10 outside hitter, Rawlins, Wyo.) is a standout player, according to the coach. “She can play any position across the net and play it well, she’s a hard worker and a good kid on the mental aspect of the sport a real high volleyball IQ.”
Two international players were unable to come to America because of Covid-19. Thaynara Isabela, (5-10 outside hitter from Suzano, Sao, Brazil) and Amanda Pizzol, (5-9, outside, Sao, Paulo, Brazil) have been doing the workouts and maintaining on-line classes and Kobza is hoping to bring them in next season.
The season begins this weekend in Scottsbluff with MCC taking on Central Wyoming, and Utah State University Eastern on Friday and then take on Eastern Wyoming and Northwest Wyoming Saturday. The Lady Indians will host the MCC Invite Feb. 5-6 taking on Colby and Frank Phillips College (Texas) on Friday and then Barton County and Eastern Wyoming in Saturday action.
The Region IX tournament is set for March 31-April 3 at Swede Erickson Thunderbird Gymnasium in Casper, Wyo.
For a complete schedule, rosters, news, statistics and more please visit the official home of MCC Athletics at