Holy Trinity Catholic High (Fort Madison, Iowa) senior Mikaela Foecke was today named the 2014-15 Gatorade National Volleyball Player of the Year. The 6-foot-3 middle blocker slammed 812 kills and amassed 270 digs, 170 service aces and 95 blocks this past season, leading the Crusaders to a 48-4 record and the school’s first state title in any sport. Foecke (Feck-ee) anchored the U.S. Women’s Junior National Team that won gold at last summer’s NORCECA Women’s U20 Continental Championship. She concluded her prep career with a state-record 2,813 kills.
A two-time Gatorade State Volleyball Player of the Year and a First-Team American Family Insurance ALL-USA High School Volleyball selection, Foecke set a state-tournament record for kills in a match this fall with 37. She is a 2014-15 Under Armour First Team All-America honoree and was named captain of the Class 1A All-State Tournament Team.
We sat down with Foecke (Feck-ee), a Nebraska commit, to better understand how she outshined more than 420,000 high school volleyball players nationwide to win the award.
Q: You were thrilled to meet US Olympian Jordan Larson—Team USA’s outside hitter en route to silver at the London Games—in the summer of 2013. True, she was Gatorade’s Nebraska Volleyball Player of the Year in 2005, maybe she should have been thrilled to meet you considering that trophy you’re holding, no?
A: Yeah, uh, well she still has the Olympic silver medal, so there’s that. She’s been able to achieve so many things. It’s an interesting piece of trivia that she didn’t win National Player of the Year, but I look up to her and respect her. She accomplished a lot at Nebraska and I’m hoping I can follow in her footsteps.
Q: Before you went to volleyball full-time, you played basketball, softball and even studied dance. If you meet the volleyball goals you’ve set, which include playing in the Olympics someday, is there a chance we’ll see you on Dancing With the Stars?
A: No, probably not. I might have danced, but not that well. I’d need a really good coach.
Q: You’ve spent a lot of time on your grandparents’ hog farm. Did you have any official chores?
A: Not really. But I’ve showed hogs [in livestock competitions] with 4-H club.
Q: It’s almost hard to believe you didn’t start playing this sport until the 7th grade. When you have time to reflect on it, does it seem hard to believe everything that’s gone down these past six years. The club success, the Team USA medals and your high school’s first state title in any sport?
A: It’s kind of crazy. I’ve had great coaches, great teammates. I’ve had the opportunity to met people like Jordan Larson. I think April Ross really said it all at today’s trophy presentation: If you give it all you’ve got and put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.
Q: This school was founded just 10 years ago and the volleyball program has made eight trips to the state tournament. You yourself had four cracks at winning it all. What was your first thought when that last point went your way?
A: My first thought was, ‘I can’t believe we just did that.’ It had eluded us for so long. We’d been state runner-up three times. The fact we pulled together to achieve our dream is so exciting. It’s a month later and I still don’t really understand what happened.
Q: You’ve talked about how important it’s been for your development to have played in the USA Volleyball national team context. What’s been your No. 1 takeaway from playing side-by-side with the best this country has to offer and facing off against the best in the world?
A: Knowing that every day you have to be working your hardest because some girls out there are working harder than that to get better. That’s how hard you have to work to be the best in your sport. Those relationships you build with people like national team folks like Tom Hogan, Jim Stone and Denise Sheldon. Training side-by-side with the [standing U.S. Women’s] National Team. It makes you want to get better and it puts your dreams in perspective.
Q: You set a state record for kills in a match with 37 in the state semifinals (breaking your own record of 35)—a contest in which your team trailed at some point in every set. You had to be told afterwards that you had even passed the 30 mark. Have you ever been in that kind of zone before?
A: Yeah, when you’re on a roll like that, at that point in the match, it’s about succeeding as a team. It’s about the first side that can get to 25. The kills don’t matter. Last year, I had 30+ kills in the state final and we still lost. What matters is how much the team flows and whether you win.
Q: Your future collegiate coach at Nebraska, John Cook, has praised you as a ‘small-town Iowa kid.’ No matter what happens in the future—Olympics, pro volleyball, etc.—will you always be that small town kid?
A: They say most people want to leave small town Iowa, but I love it. My dream is to come back here and live and stay. I love this community and I love the people. It’s something I’ll always carry with me. Right up until the time I come back.