For a multi-sport athlete who would most likely list basketball as her game of choice, Northwest’s McKenzie Brown is showing that she has almost unlimited potential on the volleyball court.
Brown recorded a match-best 16 kills to help the Vikings sweep visiting Hastings 25-13, 25-15, 25-12 on Tuesday night. It marked the 13th consecutive victory for Northwest, which is ranked No. 3 in Class B and No. 10 overall by the Omaha World-Herald.
After a modest start in which Brown had two kills and two aces in the opening set, the 5-foot-10 junior outside hitter simply took over in sets two and three. Brown notched eight second-set kills and had six more in the third, helping the Vikings to a 34-20 advantage in kills.
“McKenzie is such a solid athlete,” Northwest coach Diane Rouzee said. “We always talk about how she’s an outstanding basketball player, but I’m so proud of her because she has made herself into an outstanding volleyball player, too.
“She really has the ability to mix it up (as an attacker). I try to guess what she’s going to do and where she’s going with the ball and she even gets me sometimes.”
Rouzee said Brown has worked hard to improve her vertical jump and has developed several reliable shots she can go to.
“I keep thinking of what I can do to challenge this kid because McKenzie can do everything,” Rouzee said. “Her passing has gotten so much better, she is very easy to coach, she has fun and she likes what she’s doing.
“McKenzie is very efficient as a hitter and everyone is extremely confident in her.”
Katie Placke added 12 assists, seven kills and two aces for Northwest (21-2). Neleigh Hall had a match-high 15 assists, Kaley Werner had five blocks and Niki Broich finished with 20 digs for the Vikings.
Brook Bailey overcame a slow start , finishing with eight kills to lead Hastings (4-16). Bailey Christy added 10 assists for the Tigers, who trailed just 15-14 in the second set before watching Northwest close with a 10-1 run.
“It’s the same thing it has been all year for us,” Hastings coach Dave Hepner said. “We play with everyone and then we find a way to give a point away here, give a point away there and then the other team gets the confidence and momentum.
“Take nothing away from Northwest, but we just can’t get the mental part of our game taken care of. We’re still battling ourselves between the ears because we don’t know if we can beat a good team.”
Hepner pointed to one lengthy second-set rally as being the story of Hastings’ night. The Tigers made several impressive digs and then had a good attack opportunity — only to hit the ball wide for an error and a Northwest point.
“Hastings put up a really good fight — they were digging balls all over the place and bringing stuff back and made us work for some points,” Rouzee said. “I give them a lot of credit. They pushed us a lot in that second set and that’s good for my team to have to face that.”
Northwest 3, Hastings 0
Hastings (4-16)................................13 15 12
Northwest (21-2)........................25 25 25
HASTINGS (kills-aces-blocks)—Brook Bailey 8-1-0, Darian Ellenwood 3-1-1.5, Taylor Williams 3-1-1.5, Elizabeth Franssen 4-0-0, Kaitlyn Pawloski 0-2-0, Kathleen Bartunek 0-1-0, Bailey Christy 0-0-0, Bailey Petzoldt 2-0-1, Lakeshia Ellwanger 0-0-0, Crystal Bauer 0-0-0, Brook Busboom 0-0-1. Totals 20-6-5.
NORTHWEST (kills-aces-blocks)—Erin Sorahan 4-0-0, Katie Placke 7-2-0, Kaley Werner 1-1-5, Neleigh Hall 0-0-0, Niki Broich 0-0-0, McKenzie Brown 16-2-1.5, Kennadi Keezer 2-0-0, Angelica Carlini 0-1-0, Morgan Westphal 3-0-1.5, Morgan Mallory 0-0-0, Kenzie Burnham 0-0-0. Totals 34-6-8.
Assists—Hastings 18 (Christy 10), Northwest 30 (Hall 15).