Mackenzie celebrates 2,000 digs with her teammates. ~ Contributed Photo
It was October, 17, 2018. Cornerstone University was playing their rivals Madonna in volleyball and It was an intense match. Former Ram defensive specialist Mackenzie Vallad was the libero for the Golden Eagles and they were hungry for a win on the road. The last time CU had beat them on their home turf was in 2001, so the match was extremely competitive. Cornerstone had claimed the first two sets by scores of 25-17 and 25-22. Madonna came screaming back in the third and fourth, earning the third 25-20, and annihilating Cornerstone in the fourth by a 25-10 score. The match called for a fifth tie-breaking set. The Golden Eagles were staring 17 years of defeat in Livonia in the eyes. In the end, CU was the better team and earned a 15-13 victory.
Mackenzie had a big game. She tallied three aces, two assists, and led the team with 27 digs.
Exciting stuff. Except there was more. One of those 27 digs gave Mackenzie her 2,000th career dig at Cornerstone University.
“I did not know that I was close to hitting 2,000 digs,” she shares. “But, we beat our rivals in the game when I broke 2,000, so it was extra special.”
Mackenzie took her “A” game with her from Rockford when she graduated in 2015. Head coach Kelly Delacher had taught her a lot about the game of volleyball before she left the Rockford gym. She earned plenty of honors along the way. She was named All-Conference, All-Region, and Honorable Mention All-State. A natural leader, she was voted team captain and the Team MVP for the Rams. A true defensive specialist, Mackenzie broke the school record for most digs in a match, and also in a season.
When asked what lessons she brought from Rockford to Cornerstone University, she had a simple answer.
“How to work hard during practice and how it paid off in the games prepared me for college. I learned to leave everything you had on the court and not to give up.”
Those lessons served her well as she made the transition to college play. She opted for CU because she was looking for a small Christian college, and it paid double dividends, because not only could she play volleyball, she could also play softball as a Golden Eagle.
In volleyball, as a true freshman, Mackenzie appeared in 38 games and recorded 115 digs. In her sophomore campaign, she appeared in 40 of the team’s 41 matches and led the team with 709 digs. She also tallied 84 assists, which was a career high. In her junior year she earned 2nd Team All-WHAC honors after registering 647 digs and also earned Academic All-WHAC honors. Her final year found Mackenzie entering the CU annals by registering 2,166 career digs – the third most in CU history. She also earned First Team All-WHAC honors and AVCA All-Region Honorable Mention. She led the Golden Eagles with 694 digs on the season, an average of 4.75 per set.
She had a wonderful experience on the court at CU, and her coach was grateful she shared her talent with the Golden Eagles.
“Kenzie was a pleasure to have on our team all four years,” said CU head volleyball coach Ryan Campbell. “She will go down as one of the best liberos in Cornerstone volleyball history. I am proud to have been able to coach her.”
Soon, Mackenzie will be graduating with a degree in Business Management, and a minor in psychology. Mackenzie is unsure of where the pursuit of a career will take her.
But, she won’t ever forget what she learned about selflessness in sports and how they add to a team’s success.
“I learned how to work hard, and how to play for the girl next to you, not yourself. I learned how to work in a team and learned how important it is to be a servant leader.”
~ Contributed Photo
~ Contributed Photo