By CONOR NICHOLL
Colby coach Jerry McKee was 837-426 all-time entering 2020, according to the Kansas Volleyball Coaches Association. McKee, active for 38 years, is eighth for wins on the state’s all-time list. Among coaches with at least 500 victories, only one coach, Cathy Foote, has more experience than McKee. Foote, currently at Wamego, has 40 years.
McKee, with long stints at Goodland and Colby, is 72. He wanted to coach again this fall but was acutely aware of the COVID-19 pandemic its effect on older people. McKee hoped to have a vaccine by the time the season started.
A vaccine has not occurred, so McKee has coached with extra precautions. Throughout fall practice and the season-opening Maroon and Gold tournament at Hays High on Aug. 29, McKee wore a mask and a face shield. McKee sometimes pulled the mask down to talk to a player. Even in those situations, the shield provided protection.
“I am trying to use the things that I have on to hopefully protect me, but we will just have to see,” McKee said.
McKee continued Colby’s success with a third-place finish in the eight-team tournament. Colby went 3-2 at the tournament, including a two-set victory versus Wheatland-Grinnell, currently ranked sixth in Class 1A, Division II. Colby defeated 5A Salina Central twice. W-G is 5-2 as of Labor Day.
“It was great for us to get back out there and play,” McKee said. “We have been hoping that that will happen. We are hoping that we get a lot more as we go through the year. Our girls struggled a little bit with conditioning, that type of thing, because we haven’t played for so long.”
McKee believed the Eagles left Hays “with a little more bit confidence.” On Thursday, Colby went 3-0 with two-set victories against Ulysses and Lakin and a three-set win versus Holcomb. Colby stands at 6-2 at Labor Day.
McKee has coached Colby since ’12, according to MaxPreps. He has just one losing season and posted a 164-132 record. Colby graduated three key seniors off last year’s team: Hallie Vaughn, Kailey Shields and Kaitlyn Nelson.
Vaughn delivered 449 kills, 46 percent of the team’s kills. Vaughn was also the point guard in basketball and cleared 1,000 career points. Shields and Vaughn were 1-2 in digs.
Senior Kennedy Stanley, a key player in basketball, was second with 159 kills. She and senior Brianna Barnett each earned all-tournament team honors. Senior Brooklyn Jones returns.
Other seniors are Kourtney Finley, Claire Nelson, Britnee McKinney, Carissa Brogan, and Lydia Reinhart.
Jori Mote, a former multi-sport standout at Weskan, serves as McKee’s assistant. Colby last reached state volleyball in ’07.
McKee captured 4A state titles with Goodland in ’88 with a 35-1 record and ’03 at 38-2. The Cowgirls were second in ’90, ’91 and ’98, according to KSHSAA archives.
“We have had a few surprises,” McKee said of Colby this fall. “So that’s what we need to have in order to make our team roll.”
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