BY LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky junior McKenzie Watson helped win not only a high school championship at Assumption in Louisville, but also a national title. She said she was “trained to win” before she got to Kentucky.
However, she never considered playing volleyball at Louisville even though she’s from a family of Louisville fans. She said former Assumption star Jackie Napper’s career at UK helped influence her decision to play for UK. Same with Stephanie Klefot, another Assumption standout who played at UK.
“I remember watching Jackie Napper when I was little and watching Steph. That kind of set the precedent for me to be here. I wanted to make an impact on this program and had looked up to Jackie since I was a little girl. Knowing how close it was to home was a big influence, too,” Watson said.
“I had a step-sister and step-brother that went here. I had been to Lexington so many times and just loved the atmosphere. I knew it was the the right fit and I’ve slowly converted my family over to Kentucky, too.”
Watson has been in Kentucky’s playing rotation since she arrived. Whether she’s on the court or not, she’s talking — most of the time it is non-stop chatter.
“I think that is just how I have always been. I am a Chatty Cathy on and off the court. I just like to give information in any way I can and help my teammates. I have been like that since I was a little,” she said.
Kentucky coach Craig Skinner says Watson has the knack to see things before they develop on the court.
“She is so tough, composed, gritty. She exemplifies what gritty is. Players like her motivate you to coach,” Skinner said.
Watson says her older sister — who stopped playing volleyball in high school — got her started playing.
“She would train me. She was four years ahead of me so I would go and practice with her team. It was great,” Watson said.
That attitude seems to be prevalent on this team that has more depth than any UK volleyball team ever. Yet the players get along great.
“We really do love each other and have each other’s back. We celebrate when other people do well. It’s very hard to do at times for people who are not role players to celebrate when someone gets a good dig at your position but that is what this team brings and we all celebrate for each other no matter what. We just all want to succeed and that makes for a good team,” Watson said.