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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Sports

Volleyball captain seeks success for her team


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Junior Keandra McCardell is the sole captain of the volleyball team in 2016. | Justin Cross/The Cougar

Thanks to her father, she knows what success is. Now she is lighting the path to the team’s younger players.

Junior setter Keandra “Keke” McCardell — the sole captain on the women’s volleyball team — reveled in her ability to lead, especially on a team where two-thirds of the roster are underclassmen.

“He taught me to always be prepared and go after what you work for,” McCardell said. “Hard work pays off and if you really want something and that’s your goal in life, if you work for it every single day you can achieve it.”

McCardell’s father, Keenan, is a former NFL wide receiver and two-time Super Bowl champion.

“It was a great honor by my teammates and I was surprised by it,” McCardell said, on being chosen as team captain. “I’m known as someone who just works hard and not really (noticeable) in the background, so for my team to recognize me as a leader was really cool.”

Although McCardell has not always been known as a vocal leader on the team, this season she is speaking up more and has become a beacon of assurance for her teammates when they need a confidence boost.

“She’s the one person on the court I look to for assurance,” Junior Sarah Afflerbaugh said. “If I’m losing confidence in my game, I can look at her and she’ll say ‘Sarah, you’re fine. Shake it off and play your game.’”

Head coach Kaddie Platt also took note of McCardell’s vocal presence on the team. Platt’s decision to make McCardell the captain was justified upon seeing her coaching her teammates.

“She talks a lot to her players and gives them belief in what they can accomplish and in their abilities,” Platt said. “She reassures them that they’re doing their job and doing it well. Every single play she’s communicating offense.”

The Missouri City native is now in her third season as the primary setter and she is on her way into the record books. Totaling 2,054 assists in her first two seasons, she is entering into uncharted territory for a Cougar volleyball player.

With a hot start this season, McCardell currently ranks eighth in the American Athletic Conference averaging 7.4 assists per set.

Earlier this season, her dominance was on display when she tied a career-high with 18 digs in a match against the University of Louisiana at Monroe.  Also recording a season-high 54 assists in the come-from-behind victory in the Flo Hyman Collegiate Classic, McCardell’s performance earned her a spot on the All-Tournament Team.

Currently 5-9 on the season, volleyball is need of a boost.

McCardell will try to get volleyball back on track by reminding her teammates that no opponent is going to hand them a win and that they must earn all of their successes.

“Her actions speak loud,” Afflerbaugh said. “She’s always the one who’s hitting the ground or going for balls, going for blocks even though she’s shorter than a lot of us blockers.”

Just as volleyball needs to become a more complete team, McCardell will use a final piece of her father’s advice to try to boost her team.

“Be a kind person and somebody who always works hard,” McCardell said. “You can’t slack off and expect somebody to hand it to you.”

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