When Gonzaga University volleyball player McKenna Marshall was in fifth grade, she wanted to be a basketball player. Her mother constantly encouraged her to play volleyball and only attend one practice session, but Marshall insisted on chopping the hardwood and playing hoops.
But once Marshall went to her first workout, she would dive into a successful career, tune in, and spice it up.
The 6-foot-1-inch junior outdoor hitter from San Diego, California, switched from competitor to the West Coast Conference (WCC), the University of San Francisco, last year.
During her time in the City by the Bay, Marshall averaged 3.3 kills per set, which added 2.1 digs per set. In her final season at USF, Marshall scored 281 kills and finished second in the conference with an average of 4.07 per set.
Marshall also led her team on kills in 15 of the games USF played, six of which consisted of over 20 kills, earning her a spot in the First Team All-WCC.
After her stellar final year at USF, Marshall moved to GU, where she currently leads the team in Kills at 236. During her process of changing schools, staying on the west coast never crossed her mind as she was open to going anywhere. But after playing GU several times, her love for the West Coast grew.
“I’ve been here before when we played [GU] when I was at USF, ”said Marshall. “I had a memory of my gaming experience [GU], and then when I got here I realized that I was only moving along the coast. I’ve always loved the west coast and I feel like this is kind of my home. So it just worked. “
Marshall said moving from one WCC school to another made her transition to her new team easier. Being used to the conference and knowing the teams they played on made it easier for Marshall to get used to their surroundings with her new teammates.
And since transfers aren’t that common within a conference, head coach Diane Nelson said having a new player from the same conference helped in a quick turnaround early last season.
“She’s done it before,” said Nelson. “She has done it once before at the level that her current Gonzaga team-mates are doing. And that just allows us, as coaches, to let them figure a few things out and focus on brand new or new freshmen, maybe ours [junior college] Transfers … that was really helpful. ”
Marshall admitted that she got a little extra motivation when she got the chance to compete against her former team. Marshall won in three straight sets, saying it was an odd experience getting scouting reports on their old roommates and teammates. But in the end, Marshall was excited to get the win.
Marshall had nine kills in beating her former school.
“I was so motivated in that game,” said Marshall. “I never wanted to win a volleyball game more than this game. They want to prove themselves and show them that I have chosen the right place. It was definitely a very fun game. I had so much fun playing this game. “
Aside from being motivated to play against her old team, Marshall has added motivation from the obstacle one of her family members faces.
Nathanial “Bailey” Marshall, cousin of the GU volleyball player, had liver problems that needed treatment in the intensive care unit. According to the GoFundMe page for Bailey, Bailey had a liver transplant in 2014 to treat primary sclerosing cholangitis, a disease of the bile ducts that affects the transfer of fluid from the liver to the small intestine.
Then, while Bailey was undergoing surgery on August 3, his hepatic artery was severed, severely affecting his liver due to the interruption of blood flow and oxygen. This resulted in Bailey’s family being placed in Los Angeles for the next month, depending on the ability to get a liver and Bailey’s recovery process.
Bailey is on the waiting list for a new liver and was discharged from intensive care on Aug. 29 while continuing daily monitoring. Since then, McKenna has said he was back in the hospital. Bailey’s GoFundMe page has raised over $ 12,000 to date.
“He’s one of the main reasons I’m really motivated,” said McKenna. “I just hope he gets this transplant as soon as possible because he deserves to start his life, you know, and he’s in his twenties. It’s just so unfair that he has to go through this. He’s been sick all his life why it’s so hard to see him go through this. ”
In everything she’s been through, Marshall’s lead on the court has been predominant in GU’s 2021 volleyball season. Nelson said her leadership style is unique and has enabled her to do her best both on and off the field.
Nelson wants her to continue that leadership aspect into the final games of the season, pointing to McKenna’s great respect for her teammates.
“She has high expectations of her[self]”Said Nelson. “… It comes with a high standard. She comes in with great performance [in] past years and a vision of what she would like to bring to the team. And all of these things ensure that the daily work is really very consciously geared towards its goal. “
At the end of the season, McKenna not only motivates herself, but also her teammates and colleagues around her. Although she’s only been here a year and with changes to the coaching staff coming after Nelson announced her resignation, McKenna said the future is still bright for GU volleyball.
“I think with my next year here, since I have a COVID year, we’re building a new foundation and with a change of coach and all, it’ll be a little messy and new,” Marshall said. “I think for me personally, I just hope that people will remember our team and how hard we are working on our performance. So when I go I hope that the foundation for what we are as a program is still very, very strong. “