Kitchel continues family tradition in athletics

Freshman outside hitter Mackenzie Kitchel plays during the game on Tuesday evening. DN PHOTO JORDAN HUFFER
Freshman outside hitter Mackenzie Kitchel plays during the game on Tuesday evening. DN PHOTO JORDAN HUFFER

Mackenzie Kitchel Bio

Jersey number - 1

Position - Outside hitter

Height - 6-foot-0

Hometown - Greenwood, Ind.

High School - Center Grove

Other College - Cincinnati

Experience - 2 letters

Her dad was a national champion and ranked the 21st best basketball player ever at Indiana University. Her mom was a Division I diver at UNLV.

Ball State redshirt junior Mackenzie Kitchel was destined to be a good athlete.

From a young age, Kitchel began challenging her brothers and trying to beat them at their own games. Although she would not find her passion for volleyball until later in life, her exposure to athletics was going with her parents to watch her brothers play basketball and baseball.

"She was always in a sports environment growing up with her brothers," Ted, her father, said. "That's where her competitive spirit came from."

Mackenzie began expanding her sports repertoire as she started grade school. She tried swimming like her mother and basketball like her father. 

It wasn't until the Kitchel family moved from Ohio to Indiana that a coach saw Mackenzie's potential in a different sport.

"My wife now plays tennis, I play golf, and her brothers played mostly basketball and baseball," Ted said. "So volleyball never entered our world. It wasn't until the volleyball coach at her high school took interest that she finally played it."

Deb McClurg, the volleyball coach at Center Grove High School, noticed Mackenzie right away. She saw her athleticism, competitiveness and rare size. After she convinced her to try volleyball, Mackenzie was hooked.

"I just remember looking at my mom and saying 'I love this,'" Mackenzie said.

Mackenzie received four letters playing volleyball. She was named to the Indiana Coaches of Girls Sports Association First Team All-State and earned ICGSA All-State honors both junior and senior year.

She was offered a chance to play at Indiana University, and to follow in the footsteps of her dad. Keeping this in mind, Mackenzie decided to take her talents elsewhere.

"It was a great place and was fun to see, but it wasn't for me," Mackenzie said. "I also wanted to make my own name, so I felt I needed to go somewhere else to do that."

She agreed to play for Cincinnati under Reed Sunahara. But before she joined the program, Molly Alvey took over as the Bearcats' new head coach.

Mackenzie didn't play her freshman year and began to search for another school to play at for the rest of her career.

At one point, Ball State coach Steve Shondell came to watch Kitchel play. He liked what he saw, and offered her a chance to come play for the Cardinals.

Shondell's passion rubbed off on Mackenzie right away.

"Coach Shondell has such a passion for this sport and I could tell that right away when I met him," Mackenzie said. "It was so refreshing and I immediately felt at home at Ball State following such a passionate coach like him."

This is Mackenzie's third season as an outside hitter for Ball State. Her parents love to come and watch their daughter play the game she loves in Worthen Arena.

"Shondell is such a nice man and great coach for Mackenzie," Ted said. "He helped her get more into the sport after the debacle at Cincinnati, and I have nothing but love for the school and the volleyball program."

Mackenzie has been injured this season, just like her father was as a freshman at Indiana. She said her dad has been giving her advice on staying focused and getting back on the court.

With a season left at Ball State, Mackenzie is sure to have plenty of time on the court. When she does, she will continue to carry on her family's athletic history and make her parents proud.

"They've always been there when I need help and it definitely has been great to see them in the crowd," Mackenzie said. "My team is my second family but I don't know what I'd do without my family being behind me to get to this point."


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