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McKenna is mighty for Lightning

Daily Pilot High School Athlete of the Week

She is short for an outside hitter but Sage junior, a two-time CIF champion and Stanford commit, consistently makes plays.

November 29, 2013|By Matt Szabo
  • Sage Hill School junior Halland McKenna, who has fun with a chemistry trick, has had the hot hand for the Lightning this season.
Sage Hill School junior Halland McKenna, who has fun with… (KEVIN CHANG, Daily…)

At 5-foot-7, Sage Hill School junior Halland McKenna does not tower over many people on the volleyball court.

The height certainly isn't short outside of the gym. It certainly is short, though, for a high school outside hitter, even at a small school like Sage Hill.

McKenna has to play smart, using the angles and picking her spots.

"I definitely think it's placement," she said. "I can't hit like [Sage junior outside] Kekai [Whitford]. Kekai, oh my God, she can knock someone's head off. I can hit anywhere, but it's just that I can't get up that high to hit straight down. Placement is definitely key."

McKenna doesn't play small. Throw her height out the window. On Saturday night, she will be helping the Lightning try to reach a place they've never been before — the CIF State Southern California Division III regional final. Sage Hill plays host to Academy League rival Crean Lutheran in a regional second-round match at 7.

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It's the teams' fourth meeting of the season. They split matches during league, sharing the league title, before Sage swept Crean in the CIF Southern Section Division 3A championship match on Nov. 23 at Cypress College.

These big postseason matches are the ones that McKenna, the Daily Pilot Athlete of the Week, enjoys the most. Her competitiveness comes out, and the Lightning (27-5) lean on her for her kills and her passing. She smiles when asked about Saturday's match. She knows that the Saints will be looking for payback.

"There's no doubt about it," McKenna said. "Their fans, their coaches, their players, every single one of them is going to be out to get us. But that's just what motivates us. It's how we approach the game that matters, just having that extra push. It's like [playing against] St. Margaret's. There's that rivalry, there's that drive to do our best in that match."

McKenna certainly is driven. She hasn't done a lot of losing since coming into Sage Hill, notching two CIF titles in three years as a starter for Coach Dan Thomassen's Lightning. Even the final match when Sage came up just short, last year when McKenna was a sophomore, said a lot about her. She said she suffered a Grade 3 left ankle sprain warming up for the Division 3A championship match against St. Margaret's. She played through the pain as the Lightning lost in five tough sets.

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