Makenzie Kuchmaner often wakes up with her knees black and blue, multiple cuts on her hands, sore hips, and too many bumps and bruises on the rest of her body to count.
The injuries are just the nature of the position Kuchmaner plays for her Marvin Ridge and Carolina Juniors volleyball teams.
Kuchmaner, 17, is in the libero position – the defensive specialist – which requires a player to be in constant pursuit of the volleyball. It often leaves Kuchmaner putting her 5-foot-6 frame in between the floor and the ball.
Kuchmaner, a four-year Marvin Ridge starter and first-team All-Observer selection, has recorded more than 1,200 career digs.
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She is considered one of the top defensive players in Charlotte by several coaches, including Charlotte Country Day’s Brian Rosen – who is her CJV club coach – because of her constant determination to get the ball.
“I hate when the ball hits the floor. I actually get really upset about what that happens,” said Kuchmaner, who played outside hitter in Youngstown, Ohio, before moving to libero when she came to North Carolina with her family in ninth grade. “I say either go for it or go home. Skin grows back and bruises heel, but you never get a second chance at winning a point. I want my team to win every point.”
Marvin Ridge volleyball coach Brook Hammers played the same position in college at Campbell University.
“I really feel like the ball doesn’t hit the floor unless she lets it,” said Hammers, in her sixth year as the Mavericks’ head volleyball coach. “Makenzie is all over the court, from end line to end line, front to back. She is so much fun to watch. Every match, she makes a few plays that I can’t even believe she made.”
Kuchmaner’s athletic talents and aggressive nature run in the family.
Her father, Vic, played baseball at Ohio’s University of Akron, and her mother, Susan, ran track at Kent State University, also in Ohio. Her two older brothers, Vic Jr. and Zach, both starred on the Marvin Ridge baseball team. Zach, 19, is now a freshman on the UNC Chapel Hill baseball team, while Vic Jr., 20, is a student at N.C. State.
Her youngest brother, Jacob, 16, is a rising sophomore on the Marvin Ridge baseball team.
“My whole family has contributed to the way I plays sports,” Makenzie Kuchmaner said. “I definitely learned to be a little tougher battling with brothers in football, baseball, soccer, volleyball growing up.”
Hammers could tell from the beginning that Kuchmaner was a different type of volleyball player.
“I think her genetics from her parents to her brothers is a huge factor in the way she plays,” Hammers said. “I just wish the Kuchmaner had three girls and one boy, not three boys and one girl, so I could get some more (Kuchmaner) volleyball players.”
While Kuchmaner never complains about injuries, according to Hammers she does deal with “bumps and bruises” regularly.
Kuchmaner enlists the help of her father, who is a chiropractor, to deal with the bruises.
“My dad helps out a lot and has been adjusting me since I was younger,” Kuchmaner said. “But I’ve also been fortunate not to be prone to injury and been fortunate not to have any major injuries.”
Kuchmaner is one of the five seniors on the Marvin Ridge team, joining Madison Cundiff, Katrina Hartley, Courtney Paulus and Maddie Spurgeon.
Marvin Ridge lost three key seniors from a year ago who now playing college volleyball: Emily Horn (Catawba Valley Community College), Kaleigh Kelley (University of South Carolina Upstate) and Mereze Visagie (Johns Hopkins University, Md.).
Coming into this season, Hammers didn’t know how her team would respond after averaging 22 wins per season over the past four years.
Marvin Ridge (5-2) got off to a good start in 2014, winning five of its seven matches at the N.C. Best of the Best Invitational tournament at Charlotte Country Day.
Kuchmaner had 80 digs in the event to earn all-tournament team honors with Hartley as the Mavericks lost to host Country Day in the championship match in 22-25, 24-26.
The Mavericks (22-5 last season) want to build on that success this season as they go for their fourth straight Southern Carolinas’ title and try to make a deep run in the playoffs. Last year, they advanced to the 3A state quarterfinals but fell 3-2 to Carson High.
“We’ve won conference every year I’ve been here, so it’s a streak we’re proud (of) and don’t want to end,” Kuchmaner said. “I’m really excited about this team, and after seeing what we did in the (Country Day) tournament, I feel like we can go far – maybe even farther than last year.”
Kuchmaner is still debating whether she will continue her volleyball career in college.
The 4.65 GPA student, who wants to study medicine, has talked to Georgetown, High Point, N.C. State and a few other college coaches, but is still making her final decision.
But when she is on the court, Kuchmaner is squarely focused on the next point. That kind of intensity is something those closest to her never take for granted.
“The libero position is very demanding, but she just takes it all in stride and does her job without complaining,” Hammers said. “I feel like she has taken that position to the next level. She just makes play after play. I hope I can instill just some of her work ethic and fearless attitude in future generations (at Marvin Ridge).”