Honorable Mention Prep of the Year: McKenzie Cooke

McKenzie Cooke felt immense excitement as she served what would become the game point in the 2015 MCAL volleyball finals. Not only was it her 17th birthday, but also a game that she would later recall as the most memorable moment of her high school volleyball career. Cooke perfectly served the ball again and again as Redwood battled their rival Marin Catholic for the win. Her final killer serve proved essential and the team ultimately beat Marin Catholic and won the championship pennant.

The 6’2” outside hitter is an offensive powerhouse with an overall hitting average of .345 and 1186 kills. However, what makes her stand out is her versatility on the court. Not only is she dominant in serving, blocking and hitting, but she is also very proficient in the back row.

Cooke prides herself on her consistency and focus, with an impressive overall serving percentage of 91.0. This consistency not only helped Redwood win the championship, but has also has helped Cooke develop into a standout player.

NCS Finals

“One thing my coaches over the years have taught me is to let stuff go that is in the past,” Cooke said. “Each point is a new point, and instead of focusing on the highs and lows of games, I focus on the end goal.”

Cooke’s determination and drive is one of the key attributes that has made her a successful volleyball player.

“She was never complacent or satisfied with what she had achieved. She always wanted a little bit more each outing, each practice,” said former varsity volleyball coach Katie Pease, who coached Cooke for all four of her volleyball seasons.

In her four years as a varsity player, Cooke’s drive has led her and her teammates to many successes. She has a MCAL championship and three NCS Division II titles under her belt. This year, her hard work paid off as she was named to the MCAL First Team and helped take her club team to the Junior National Volleyball Championship in Dallas.

According to Cooke, she has achieved one of her main goals, which was to excel in the back row. This is unique for a player of her height and position.

“She is not only a big hitter, but she has great defensive skills. She is one of the top passers in the league and is great at blocking,” Pease said.

Cooke, a team captain her senior year, is known for her concentration and “hard-ass” intensity on the court, according to teammate Claire Jackson. But only four years ago, she was one of only two freshmen on a 17-player varsity team loaded with nine seniors. Cooke said she has grown a lot as a person and a player since her first season.

“I’ve definitely gotten better physically and I’ve grown a lot emotionally since then too. I used to be scared and nervous all of the time, but now I feel like I’m more of a leader on the court. I just love playing more than I did back then,” Cooke said.

As co-captain with her friend Claire Jackson, Cooke filled the “bad cop” role, while Jackson played the “good cop” role, according to Jackson. Together they have led the team and been excellent role models, according to Pease.

“I was more of the bad cop, but I made sure we stayed on track with our goals and that we were taking advantage of opportunities, that we would try our best to go as far as possible,” Cooke said.

As she cleared out drawers of old papers, Cooke recently stumbled upon a letter she had written to herself as a seventh-grader. Along with the many other dreams that she had for the next five years, she had written that she wanted to play Division I volleyball in college. Cooke definitely did not disappoint her former self, as she will continue her career playing Division I volleyball at Yale University this fall.

Cooke is looking forward to making an impact at Yale next year and is hoping to gain a starting spot on the team at some point. She is also considering continuing her volleyball career after college.

“This past summer, I played internationally in Croatia and Italy. I’d love to continue my career after college in either beach or international volleyball, traveling and still keeping up the sport,” Cooke said.

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