Hard work isn’t a problem for Lana McKee. So when the Bayfield High School senior steps foot on a college volleyball court in the fall, she won’t have a problem digging deep to compete for playing time.
McKee, a 5-foot-6 defensive specialist, will continue her career at Northeastern Junior College in Sterling. She will join a Plainswomen program with a strong reputation after making back-to-back appearances in the National Junior College Athletic Association National Tournament.
“I couldn’t be happier,” McKee said. “I was really wanting to go to a junior college and slowly ease my way into college. This is the perfect situation at a great school with a great coach and girls who I am talking to already. As soon as I get there, I am ready to compete and work and push hard. I’ll give it my all like I always do.”
The daughter of Chad and Heather McKee has long set the example for working ethic. She wakes up early to help on the family ranch before morning practices and school.
On the volleyball court, McKee throws herself across the floor to dive for any ball she can reach. Her senior season, she totaled 381 digs, good for an average of 5.1 per set.
“She set the precedent defensively in terms of her work ethic and team-minded leadership,” said BHS head coach Terene Foutz. “She just gets after it competitively and sets the example for all the kids around her. She works hard, and she expects others to work as hard as she does. And she improved because she bought into the idea that she could make things happen that way. She slowed down a lot of hitters her senior year and made a lot of offense possible for Bayfield.”
Last season, the Plainswomen went 25-12 overall and 17-3 in Region IX games to once again qualify for the national tournament. The team’s three defensive specialists were all sophomores who have now moved on.
Northeastern will be led this year by head coach Mackenzie Chrisman, an alumna of Sterling High School and Chadron State College, who was the assistant last year under long-time head coach Jessica Squier.
“I get the same kind of feel from her as I get with (Foutz),” McKee said. “She’s a go big or go home kind of coach. If you work hard, you’re going to play. She’s definitely a stronger coach, and I love that.”
Foutz said McKee’s key to success will be to work on serving in the coming months.
“The serve and pass game is crucial at the college level,” said Foutz, who played college volleyball at Colorado Mesa University. “It’s about first-contact volleyball. Defensively, I predict she will outwork any player in the gym. It’s just who she is.”
McKee was an all-league player who helped BHS get back to the state tournament for the first time since 2016 last season. She also was a goalkeeper for the BHS girls soccer team.
In college, she aims to study animal science, which will come in handy on the family ranch.
For now, she is working out at home and running through drills with her mom. With gyms closed and team sports shut down by the coronavirus pandemic, she hopes to get back into the swing of practices sooner than later. When she does, there’s no doubt she will go full speed.
“Working on the ranch with my family, every time we do something it’s 100%. You can’t get the job done at 50%. If you’re going to do it, you gotta go all the way,” she said. “I take that spirit into volleyball with me and give everything I have to it. Practice hard and play harder; practice 110% hoping to get 220% in my game. That’s just how I am.”