With the Niwot volleyball program introducing a new coach and a new system in 2017, senior Mackenzie Fidelak knew that if her final season was going to be as successful as she wanted it to be, some sacrifices had to be made.
When she came out in the Cougars' opener against Thompson Valley as a secondary setter, it was fully revealed the Fidelak was going to be needed everywhere on the court.
Willingly, Niwot head coach Daisha Agho said, the Stanford-bound Fidelak accepted whatever role was needed on any given night to keep NHS as one of the few teams in the conversation for 4A state title contention.
Indeed, Niwot reached the semifinals for the first time since 1997 and cleared a major hurdle with Fidelak playing a large role. For her efforts as perhaps Colorado's most versatile player, she has been named BoCoPreps.com's volleyball player of the year.
"This year, in general, was just all about having a great time and we had a new coach that I absolutely loved," Fidelak said after the Cougars completed a Northern League championship and 22-6 campaign overall. "The group of girls on our team were amazing, so we just wanted to do as best as we could, do some things at state we've never done before, and just have a good time. It was awesome that we got past the obstacle of pool play this year."
To be setting a little bit was nothing new for the hard-hitting Fidelak, who helped Niwot to three state tournaments in her career. But this year saw her in that role more frequently while still managing to help on the attack, on defense and in the service game.
Junior teammate Madison Schoeder was able to resume her place at setter for the state tournament, but Fidelak finished second on the team with 321 assists and had more games of 10 or more assists (20) than she did with 10 or more kills (14).
That's not a knock — because Fidelak totaled 275 kills (66th best in Colorado), and no one with that many kills also had that many assists.
"Ever since I was 14 I've trained as a setter, too, so it wasn't a huge jump to step into that role this year, but it was whatever the team needed and I would much rather win games than just be out there to play the position that I want," Fidelak said. "I love setting, I love hitting, but I love winning. When Madison got back to playing again, that was super fun, too, because was fabulous."
Volleyball has its triple-doubles (reaching double figures in three categories for a single match), and Fidelak ended up with five of those including both matches the Cougars played against league rival Longmont. It's a rare feat, to be true.
She added 41 aces and 69 total blocks to the mix — all part of the reason she was also named Northern League player of the year and CHSAANow.com's 4A player of the year.
"All-around, she's one of the best players I've seen and her game is more refined than most, but she is also a great student and a great leader," said Agho, who was an assistant at Berthoud when the highly touted Kelley Arnold was reaching great heights at the prep level. "She did things without hesitation. She wanted so badly to get past pool play at state and make that goal of reaching the semifinals, and through the whole season she did a good job of making sure everybody on the team understood the impact of wins and losses to what we wanted to accomplish."
Agho also mentioned how she saw Fidelak take a lot of sub-varsity girls under her wing in an attempt to bring the whole program together. Agho said Fidelak didn't want Niwot's story to begin and end with the top-level players.
"One of the coolest things about coming into a high school program is the relationships you have the opportunity to build," Fidelak said. "I really wanted everyone to have the same feeling that I did when I was a freshman — the team was so welcoming. So I tried to form those relationships.
"I'm glad if I got to make a difference with the program."