By Jocelyn Rowley 

Volleyball: Fidelak sets her sights on state title run


August 30, 2017

New Niwot volleyball coach Daisha Agho admits she has lofty expectations for senior Mackenzie Fidelak in 2017. And why shouldn’t she? The powerful 6’4” middle hitter has become one of the area’s most exciting players, with more than enough skills to lead the Cougars to their second consecutive regional title. But to get the Cougars into the deeper rounds of the Class 4A tournament, Agho will be relying on her captain for more than just her athletic ability.

“I am looking for her to assume a leadership role bigtime this year,” said the former Berthoud head coach. “I want her to use those leadership capabilities to get the enthusiasm going, and help push the team to that post-season goal of getting to state and pushing past the first round. She can pull the team up to the standard we want to be at.”

Luckily for Agho, the Stanford-bound Fidelak shares the same lofty ambitions.

“I think we’re going to go out and have a great year,” Fidelak said during an afternoon practice. “My goal — that I share with the team — is to make it to state and get past pool play, because I’ve never done that before.”

As for her role as a mentor, Fidelak said, “It’s very exciting to be a senior and a captain and have the experience of the freshmen looking up to me.”

It’s hard to overstate Fidelak’s contribution to Niwot’s success in 2016. As junior co-captain, she had 331 kills on the year, which was second highest total in the Northern League and sixth highest in Class 4A. She was also the team’s second best blocker, with 60.

When she’s not on the court for Niwot, Fidelak can generally be found with her NorCo Volleyball Club, where she is teammates and a “friendly rival” with Silver Creek standout Rylee Anderson. Earlier this summer, both played in the 2017 U18 national volleyball finals. Fidelak is also a serious sprinter, who earned two third-place medals at the Class 4A track and field championships last spring. In June, Fidelak announced that she committed to play collegiately at Stanford, which has been her dream school “for as long as I can remember.”

Fidelak will have a strong supporting cast of state-experienced players returning to the team with her this year, not the least of whom are junior standouts Emma Falk and Zoe Gonzales. The towering duo — both stand 6’4” — form the other two pillars of Niwot’s nearly impenetrable middle. In 2016, Gonzales led the team with 95 blocks, while Falk had the team’s highest hit percentage (.384), and the second most service aces (37).

“Our middles, we’re certainly not lacking there by any means,” said Agho, who is clearly excited about her big three. “I’m looking forward to seeing what they produce this year, next year, and even post-high school.”

Also returning to the varsity squad this year are junior Audrey Richard and sophomore Emma Shiers, both outside hitters. For the early part of the season, junior Rachel Priola will be the team’s main defensive specialist, while junior Ashley Bradbury is recovering from a hip injury. Junior Katie Hirsh will be the team’s setter, replacing the departed Brynn Chavez, who was All-State honorable mention last year. The Cougars also have some “very talented” newcomers, including senior Julia Stephenson (MH) and junior Cecily Kirschling, both back with the team after nursing injuries that kept them out for all of 2016.

Agho feels the Cougars have all the front line pieces in place, but admits the team is still “a little bit weaker” on defense, and says they’ve been working on “reading the hitters and reading the other side of the court.”

“Offensively, right now, we’re a powerhouse,” she said. “Defense is always a challenge, but they’re responding very well, so I don’t anticipate it being a huge problem.”

While Agho’s outlook for her team this season is sunny, she isn’t underestimating the threat from Anderson and Silver Creek. The key, she said, is “having confidence, knowing we’re a very strong team, and then going out and taking care of business”

“They have Rylee Anderson, but I have six girls that I think are pretty phenomenal,” said Agho.

For her part, Fidelak hasn’t forgotten Niwot’s heartbreaking loss to Holy Family in last year’s Class 4A volleyball playoffs and says this has been a motivator for the returning varsity players this year.

“These girls know what it was like to have that disappointing loss at state last year. Everyone’s been practicing with that in mind,” she said. “Hopefully, with that we’ll be able to crack through that barrier this year.”

The Cougars kick off their season on Sept. 5th at home against Thompson Valley, then face an early season test on the road at Silver Creek on Sept. 7.


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