Sonoma Valley’s Albrecht multisport standout

Sonoma Valley's MacKenzie Albrecht bumps fists with teammate Ciara Smith during a match on Tuesday. (ALVIN JORNADA / The Press Democrat)

Sonoma Valley’s MacKenzie Albrecht bumps fists with teammate Ciara Smith during a match on Tuesday.
(ALVIN JORNADA / The Press Democrat)

By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Growing up with athletic brothers exposed Mackenzie Albrecht to competition on the playing field before she could kick, hit or shoot a ball.

Soon she would do all with great skill and passion. Credit nature or nurture, Albrecht was destined to be a three-sport standout and could be one of Sonoma Valley High’s top female athletes ever with still another year of prep competition ahead.

“I grew up in a sports atmosphere. I wanted to be on the field and experience it on my own,” Albrecht said. “I’ve just always been active.”

Whatever the season, Albrecht wears the Sonoma Valley green and black. Volleyball is on stage this fall. Albrecht anchors the Sonoma Valley volleyball team poised for a North Coast Section playoff run beginning this week after dominating Sonoma County League play. A trip to the state playoffs is the goal.

“Mackenzie’s a great leader. She pulls everyone together,” said longtime Sonoma Valley coach Mindy Neves, who resigned recently. “She’s got the body, she’s got the mind, she’s got the heart.”

A unifying force, Albrecht finds that bond with volleyball teammates in fall, basketball in winter and track in spring. The common denominator is a passion to compete.

“I knew she was something special, not just her athletic gift and talent, but her competitive drive,” said Sonoma Valley girls basketball coach Sil Coccia.

Big, strong and fast, Albrecht always had the makeup of an athlete. Now a junior in high school, Albrecht is 6-feet tall and nimble on her feet.

Exposed to sports since she could walk, Albrecht watched older brothers Braden and Ian play through high school.

“It made me want to compete,” Albrecht said. “It also kind of made me have a tougher personality, a harder shell.”
Soccer is where Albrecht first tapped her athletic potential. Skilled and quick, Albrecht played three years with the Santa Rosa United club.

Going into high school, Albrecht needed to choose between soccer and volleyball since both are fall sports. Albrecht first played volleyball at St. Francis school and moved up to the Empire club program in middle school.

“It took me all summer to decide,” she said. “I really fell in love with volleyball. The team atmosphere is really intense.”
It turned it out to be a good choice. Albrecht was All-SCL her first two seasons, including league MVP as a sophomore, and made All-Empire last season as well.

As Sonoma Valley’s setter, Albrecht is tall for the position, which allows her to cover the court well. She also blocks with the best and hits winners.

“She’s one of the best athletes I’ve seen. She is a natural for sure,” Neves said. “But she’s also very smart. The talent meets the brain. She’s amazing.”

So versatile is Albrecht that she leads Sonoma Valley in areas beyond her primary role of passing and setting up kills.

“She’s a threat all the way around. That’s so unusual,” Neves said.

While she has the height for a front-line hitter, Albrecht has played setter since her early days with the Empire club given her athleticism. Albrecht quickly took to the position.

“I touch the ball every play. That’s why I really like the game,” she said. “It’s kind of like being the quarterback on a football team. You have to be vocal and direct traffic.”

This season, Albrecht has helped Sonoma Valley to a No. 12 ranking for Division 3 in California. In the North Coast Section, the Dragons are No. 8 overall and No. 3 in their division.A run to the CIF state playoffs would keep Albrecht playing volleyball into the first weeks of Sonoma Valley’s basketball season.

No problem for Albrecht, who is in condition from the volleyball season and can quickly sharpen her basketball skills. A ball hawk, Albrecht led Sonoma Valley in rebounding and was second in scoring as a sophomore.

“The girl is a walking double-double,” Coccia said.

What makes basketball fun for Albrecht is the physical contact.

“You can bang into people. In volleyball you’re separated by a net,” Albrecht said.

Soft-spoken off the court, Albrecht has a more commanding presence when the game is on.

Such determination helps Albrecht juggle overlapping seasons in the winter and spring and still keep top scholastic marks in school.

There is basketball and club volleyball January and February, then track and club volleyball through the end of the school year.

“It can get hectic. As of now I’m still sane,” she said.

Track is Albrecht’s third sport. Yet, she is among the Bay Area’s best in the 400 meters. Albrecht had the Empire’s fifth-best time as a sophomore and has twice qualified for the NCS Meet of Champions.

“I just kind of go into the flow of track,” she said. “It helps me stay in shape and its fun because it’s a coed sport.”
Indeed, she appreciates the opportunity to play three sports in high school. Albrecht will only play volleyball in college.

Albrecht has committed to playing at Cal, where her brothers attended. Ian Albrecht played football for the Golden Bears.

While the Cal coaches would like Albrecht to stick to volleyball, they have not demanded that she give up basketball and track. They urge Albrecht to be smart and pay attention to signs of injury.

Cal recognized what USA Volleyball coaches did in selecting Albrecht to attend a national junior development camp this past summer in Florida. She earned the chance at a Reno tryout. Albrecht hopes to return next year.

“I’m getting faster,” she said. “My whole knowledge of the game has improved.”

Volleyball will win out, but for now, Albrecht is an all-seasons athlete.

“To play in front of your peers is kind of special,” she said. “I love all the sports so much. I kind of just do it all.”

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