UTSA’s own McKenzie Adams was named the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) volleyball Player of the Year. Throughout the season, the junior outside hitter earned five WAC Player of the Week titles, led the league with 4.88 points and 4.37 kills per set, and posted 19 double-doubles. Adams became the fourth Roadrunner to earn a Player of the Year title in program history, and the first since 1999.
Adams, a Schertz, Texas native, has been a standout in the volleyball community for years. As a middle blocker in high school, she was a first team all-state honoree, ranked first in the San Antonio area in hitting percentage as a junior and senior. She still holds a number of records at her alma mater, Steele High School. She was an outside hitter only for the last two years of her junior volleyball career, but she was still heavily recruited for the position by Division I colleges. Among those was the University of Virginia, where Adams chose to play her freshman year.
Obviously, it didn’t work out. “My family and I are really close,” Adams says. “Virginia wasn’t the best place for me.”
The 6-foot-3 all-star returned to Texas to be with her family, and she soon began looking at a school closer to home. “I saw the [UTSA] campus and decided that this was probably the best place for me, and it’s a little bit closer to home.” Unfortunately, there were still issues with Virginia holding her back. “At first, the coach wasn’t going to release me, so I wasn’t going to be able to play. But once I had enrolled here and Laura talked to him, he released me to her.”
The process of enabling McKenzie to play for the Roadrunners didn’t discourage head coach Laura Groff.
“It’s one of those things where all coaches deal with problems that come with transfers. But I was excited,” she added. “Sometimes you have something good in your back door but you don’t realize it until you go away, and I think that’s something she realized.”
And luckily for everyone involved, she has found her happiness here. “I have more fun here,” explains Adams. “I’m playing with some of my best friends.”
One of those friends is Paige Hamilton, a junior defensive specialist for the Roadrunners. Hamilton and Adams played together previously at a local junior volleyball club and are glad to be playing together again. “McKenzie smiles and has fun, and that’s what I love about playing with her,” Hamilton said. “It’s fun to be able to talk and joke around with her on the court. She never gets stressed out.”
Brandy Huskey, UTSA’s starting setter, agrees. “She’s always one we can depend on to get that last kill or to make a good play,” Huskey says. “She leads by her actions.”
Adams has just as much respect for her teammates as they have for her. Like a true team player, Adams claims she wouldn’t have received the recognition that she has from the WAC if it weren’t for the others. “Brandy, Paige, Annie [Kunes] – all my teammates are a huge part of why I’m so successful.”
And according to Coach Groff, Adams returns the favor. “In practice, whatever side of the net she is on automatically has an advantage. That makes the other side of the net have to work harder and get better. The better she is, the better she makes our team.”
This spring, Adams is going to learn even more about making other players better. But this time, her audience will be athletes with college dreams rather than those with college scholarships. Adams is set to coach a nationally recognized group of 18-year-olds for San Antonio Force, a junior volleyball program in the area. Adams has held many private lessons with young players, but has never coached a team for an entire season. “I feel like they might not take me seriously since I’m so close to their age, but I hope that my skill will show them that I’m here to teach them something,” she said.
“They’re going to want to learn for her,” Hamilton affirms. “She’s a good teacher and she’s really good with kids. We had a little camp here and the kids just clung to her. They want to listen to her because they know how good she is.”
“Along with skill, I want to teach the girls to be humble and to enjoy volleyball,” stated Adams. “Once you get to that age it’s all about getting into college, but it’s not always about the next step. It’s mainly about having fun. As long as you’re having fun, things are going to work out.”
Coach Groff believes that coaching experience will also improve Adams’ game tremendously. “I think it will help her be more vocal because she’ll have to talk to her players over and over again. And the girls will look up to her and hold her accountable for everything she does because she’ll be their role model,” explains Groff. “It will help her mature and be even more responsible. Being the role model that she is, I think those kids are going to adore her.”
Adams’ goals for the rest of the season include winning the WAC tournament and continuing on to the NCAA Tournament, and she hopes to do the same next season in a new conference. “I want to do what we did in this conference. I want to show the other teams that we’re a team to compete with and they need to watch out.” As for coaching, Adams hopes to do more than teach. “I want to make an impact on their lives. I want to help them find the place that they want to be.” With her volleyball knowledge and personal experiences, Adams will serve as a valuable resource and positive role model for the young volleyball players of San Antonio.