AKRON — Former Tippecanoe Valley volleyball coach Mallory Eaton remembers when senior Makenzie Woodcox first entered her program as a seventh-grader. What a long way she’s come since then.
Woodcox signed on to continue her volleyball career at nearby Grace College during a signing ceremony last week at Valley.
“I chose Grace because it’s close to home. I don’t want to be far away from home, and I just think it’s an all-around good fit for me,” she said.
“I practiced twice with their team, and I fell in love with them. They felt so welcoming. It felt like home to me.”
“I’m really excited for Mak because when she first came into the program, she was this scared little seventh-grader the first time I met her and tall and just trying to figure out if she liked this sport,” recalled Eaton. “She’s just blossomed into this aggressive, super coachable kid. Her records speak for themselves, but it’s just so funny because the first tournament I had her in, she cried because it was just a scary, new thing. To see her just own it by her senior year is really awesome as a coach.”
The 6-foot middle hitter’s records at Valley include kills in a single season (479 as a senior in 2019), a single match (29 versus Manchester in late September) and over a career (a whopping 1,096 during her time with the Lady Vikings). She also owns the program’s all-time best hitting percentage at .379. Her talents earned her picks on the All-Three Rivers Conference team, the All-Rochester Sentinel Team, a spot on the Dunes All-Tournament team, and she was selected for the Class 3A All-Star tryout.
As it turns out, Woodcox has been on Grace coach Katie Van Hofwegen’s radar for awhile.
“We saw Makenzie a couple years ago at a Warsaw tournament, and Mallory had always just kind of been telling me ’It’s a kid you’re going to want to keep your eye on. Lot of raw talent, huge potential,’ and we saw her playing in the middle and we really liked her slide approach,” explained Van Hofwegen.
“The minute we kind of figured out it would be a good fit for both of us and we were looking for her position, I came and watched her this fall, saw her play against Columbia City. She had a great game, and I just kind of kept up with her throughout the course of the fall. Then we brought her onto campus, and she got to play with our team once the season ended. The girls loved her. It was a really good fit altogether. We’re excited to have her join the program.”
Also a talented three-year basketball player for Valley, Woodcox decided to forgo a senior winter season with the Vikings in order to keep her skills sharp for her upcoming freshman campaign at Grace.
“This will be the first year she’s kind of playing all year round instead of playing as a dual-sport athlete. I think her basketball experience will help her just be better and well-rounded, but we’re excited to just kind of get her attention for a full year,” said Van Hofwegen.
“I haven’t found a team yet to really play, but I’ve been working out and getting prepared for it,” explained Woodcox.
Grace finished 17-18 overall in 2019 with a 10-8 record in the Crossroads League. Woodcox is coming off a 21-11 season at Valley this past fall and helped lead the team to a respectable 6-3 finish in the TRC as well as that sterling overall mark.
“I hope I left a positive standard — always show up and always be positive. Never have a bad attitude,” Woodcox said of her time with Valley volleyball.
As far as what the future holds, Eaton has no doubt it’ll be bright for Woodcox.
“She’s a hard worker, and I think she’s going to bring a lot of, not just pure athletic talent but good depth to their program. I think she’ll do really well there,” she said.