BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
Pioneer senior Mackenzie Rogers is not like many other volleyball players that one might see.
She led her team in kills. She led her team in assists. She led her team in blocks. She was second on the team in digs. She even had time for 226 serves received.
We have seen six-rotation players before, but we have not seen many players play six rotations and have 361 assists.
We have seen great players come out of Pioneer before, but none quite have the skill set that Rogers does.
It was not always easy for Rogers and her Lady Panther teammates. After some moments that might have made one wonder if they were ready to peak in mid-October, they did just that. Pioneer won a Class 2A sectional for the first time in 25 years, and they followed it up by beating previously unbeaten South Central (Union Mills) and Churubusco for their first Class 2A regional title.
Rogers was representative of Pioneer’s unique style of play, confusing opponents with their three-setter, three-middle system because of their multi-talented, versatile players.
And because of that, Rogers is the RTC Volleyball Player of the Year.
We would like to thank area coaches for sending us their scores and stats, and we also thank them for their insights during the season.
Having said that, our All-RTC Volleyball list is ours and ours alone, and we take full responsibility.
Mackenzie Rogers (Pioneer) – Rogers has already signed with Vanguard University in Costa Mesa, Calif. Vanguard went 29-2 in their recently completed season and is making the transition from NAIA to NCAA Division II. This speaks well for Rogers that such a successful program wants her.
Brooklyn Borges (Pioneer) – Borges returned triumphantly from her torn ACL to record 262 kills, and she was an underrated server with 37 aces to go with her menacing blocking ability.
Macee Hinderlider (Caston) – Who led all RTC area players in kills? Perhaps reflexively you might guess somebody from Pioneer, but in fact, it was Hinderlider with 291. She was at her most aggressive this year, combining power with placement, and she did not always have to be comfortable on top of the net to come up with great attacks.
Brynn Berndt (Culver) – Berndt’s days as a setter are over, and Culver was better off for it. She can play both ways, leading the team in both kills (259) and digs (256). She also had over 200 serves received. She has played a lot of travel ball, and her placement and court vision are a sign of how much she has played.
Avery Wagoner (Tippecanoe Valley) – Wagoner had 748 assists, a great career for some but just the junior season for her. She had Mackaylie Costello and Ava Egolf at her disposal out of the middle, but she also kept involving Ava Smith, Colette Blackburn and Betty Shepherd from the outside. She is the latest in a long line of great Valley setters.
Blair Grigsby (Pioneer) – Grigsby’s stats are another sign of the versatility of Pioneer’s lineup – 172 kills, 200 assists, 306 digs. It seemed like her hitting efficiency improved as the season went on.
Keirsten Nies (Pioneer) – Possessed with both a great vertical jump and impeccable volleyball instincts, Nies was the best server in Pioneer’s three-setter machine, but she also had 97 kills, 306 digs and 268 serves received.
Mackaylie Costello (Tippecanoe Valley) – Costello was the go-to player that Wagoner would usually find whenever Valley needed a big swing, and she also had an efficient, effective serve.
Alexa Finke (Caston) – Our area was loaded with good middle hitters, and Finke would compare with any of them: She had 223 kills and an astounding 53 kills. She can jump through the roof, and she became more aggressive offensively this year.
Isabel Scales (Caston) – Scales added another 207 kills to her career total this year, and she is also a key part of the block along with Finke. She is also an underrated defensive player, recording 31 digs in a huge win at North Judson.
Elizabeth Rance (Pioneer) – Rance recorded 167 kills, and it seemed like every one of them was timely, coming at a time when her team really needed it. Add that to 323 digs, and you have a supremely valuable player.
Ava Egolf (Tippecanoe Valley) – Egolf’s arrival from Warsaw led to a pairing with Costello that led to tons of Valley offense out of the middle. She finished with 247 kills and was also a deft passer out of the back row.
Audrey Bolinger (Rochester)
Kylie Attinger (Pioneer)
Addison Zimpleman (Caston)
Aubrey Wilson (Rochester)
Grace Sieber (Culver)
Lillee Lett (Rochester)
Ava Smith (Tippecanoe Valley)
Darah Strasser (Rochester)
Annie Harsh (Caston)
Colette Blackburn (Tippecanoe Valley)
Piper Link (Winamac)
Shelbi Weiser (Argos)