All-Empire large schools volleyball player of the year: Mackenzie Albrecht

Two-time player of the year Mackenzie Albrecht of Sonoma Valley. (Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat)

Two-time player of the year Mackenzie Albrecht of Sonoma Valley. (Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat)

By PETER FOURNIER
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Athletes who need to take seven months off because of an injury don’t always return to their top form, but not every athlete is current two-time All-Empire large school girls volleyball player of the year Mackenzie Albrecht.

A 6-foot-tall setter on the Sonoma Valley team who’s bound for Cal next fall, Albrecht didn’t disappoint. She overcame a dislocated shoulder she suffered while playing basketball earlier in her junior season to lead the Dragons to a North Coast Section Division 3 title and an appearance in the CIF Division 3 State Championship tournament.

“It was the longest time in my life not being able to play the sport that I love,” Albrecht said about her time on the sidelines.

Albrecht was injured on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jan. 20, 2014, and had surgery on Valentines’ Day, Feb. 14. She didn’t play again until September.

Now she’s a four-time All-Sonoma County League athlete after returning to the volleyball court with one month to practice before the season started.

It was then that her coach, Chelsea Scott, told Albrecht not to worry about trying to be perfect while trying to get back in rhythm of things on court.

“She’s always the person on the court working the hardest,” Scott said. “It mentally didn’t slow her down or physically didn’t slow her down.”

The Dragons carried an undefeated campaign in the Sonoma County League into the NCS playoffs, where they captured the section title in a thrilling final with Campolindo.

“I think our coaching staff helped a lot and this team was just so committed from the beginning to get to our goal,” Albrecht said.

“We weren’t even surprised that we got there because we knew we had the work ethic.

“We were just so proud of ourselves that we reached our goal. It was all just unreal.”

Scott recalled that NCS title game, when the Dragons enjoyed a prime rib-and-French roll snack from a team parent before the big match, saying the meal was part of the team’s “relaxed attitude of  “believing in ourselves and believing in what we were.”

Albrecht’s shining moment, however, was the team’s state playoff home game against Christian Brothers.

“It was one of the craziest experiences our team will never forget,” Albrecht said. “The atmosphere was unlike anything I’ve ever felt before. When I walked in it gave me goosebumps. (It seemed that) half the town was there. We didn’t want to disappoint.”

Albrecht recalled a sold-out gym. “I’ve never been in the gym when it was like that.”

Sonoma Valley lost the first game, but thanks to Albrecht and Scott’s leadership, regained its composure.

“We had to buckle down and just because we’re playing at home we had to say composed,” Albrecht said. “We realized that this game is like any other game. And we did that for the rest of the game and it showed.

“I really didn’t have any doubts we were going to win that game. I knew we could play better than we could in that first game.”

The Dragons came back to win the next three sets and advance.

“It was special, coming back, because it showed how strong we were as a team,” Albrecht said.