Volleyball

How Mackenzie Weaver’s edgy relationship with her mom benefited her volleyball career

Sabrina Toto | Contributing Photographer

Mackenzie Weaver (17) had been a key contributor for Syracuse. Her lively relationship with her mother prepared her for her first year at SU.

UPDATED: Nov. 16 at 12:10 a.m.

Mackenzie Weaver kept misjudging passes to her teammates. Bobbi Weaver suspected something was wrong because her daughter rarely messed up.

“I looked to my assistant coach and said, ‘She doesn’t have her contacts in. I can guarantee it,’” Bobbi said. “‘Look at her squint.’”

Mackenzie said she did have her contacts in. But back at Bobbi’s office at Lexington (Ohio) High School after the game, she gave her daughter one more chance to confess.

“‘No, I didn’t have them in there!’” Mackenzie screamed, Bobbi recalled.

Then Bobbi, feeling comfortable enough to do so, chucked a water bottle at her daughter.

The close but edgy relationship between the two has helped elevate Mackenzie’s volleyball career. Bobbi was an All-American at Division II Ashland University and coached local high schools and regional club teams. She also coached Mackenzie, who is now a freshman contributor for Syracuse (7-19, 6-9 Atlantic Coast).

Growing up in suburban Mansfield, Ohio, Mackenzie was constantly surrounded by volleyball. She often ran around the sidelines in her toddler-sized kneepads and spandex waiting for the opportunity to play as her mother coached some of the best players in the country, Mackenzie said. When Mackenzie was 2 or 3 years old, she traveled on planes and buses with Bobbi’s Ohio Xtreme players.

“It is probably the best thing, and it is probably the worst thing,” Mackenzie said of playing for her mother. “She would hold me accountable to a point where I was like, ‘What else do you want from me’… We would get in fights.”

As she got older she did get her chance and she always played with kids at least a year older due to her size and her advanced hand-eye coordination. When she was 8 she was playing with the 9 and 10 year olds. Something that in hindsight Bobbi wasn’t always happy about as she started playing competitively in the sixth grade.

“She wanted to dance, she was in ballet, she played soccer, basketball and was quite good at all of it,” Bobbi said, “…(but) I wanted her to find her own love and not something I loved.”

Mackenzie found that volleyball was the perfect fit and begged her mother to allow her to continue to play with the older kids. She was OK with the consequences and the large commitments.

It was Mackenzie’s decision and her mother was ready for what it brought, even if Bobbi thought tennis or softball were sports she wanted her daughter playing.

“I knew that volleyball was going to be my ticket out,” Mackenzie said.

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Sabrina Koenig | Staff Photographer

She played club ball and would travel to late night practices up to an hour and 15 minutes away with her mother that occurred three times per week. They would often last from 7:30 to 9:45 at night or from 5:30 to 7:45.

She would often get back home near or at midnight on school nights where practice happened everyday, and would start early at around 8:30 in middle school and 7:45 in high school.

“I would leave class and me and my mom would get in the car, we would drive to practice,” Mackenzie said. “… every single day. It was something.”

Mackenzie said that her mother’s presence and the pressure she put on her daughter helped her to become a better person, teammate and student. Seemingly everything her mother did for her had a purpose.

Whether it was an extra day in the gym, tiring runs on the track or changing her diet, Mackenzie believed in whatever her mother told her to do. If it made the team better, the pain or discomfort was worth it.

“‘If you want to be better and you want to take your team places, you have to put them on your back and go,’” Mackenzie recalled her mother saying.

And with her team Mackenzie came within one win of a state championship her senior year, a Cinderella journey as an underdog.

Bobbi said that against Padua Franciscan in the regional semifinals the team won or lost every set by two points and when they were down 14-11 in the fifth set, Mackenzie and the team were looking for a way to come back and move on.

“Mackenzie looked over at me and she said ‘What are we going to do Mom?’ I said, ‘Fight like a friggin’ dog.’”

Lexington High School took command and went on a 5-0 run to win the match, 16-14. The Minutemen’s playoff run eventually ended in the state semifinals.

Mackenzie learned form that loss what it takes to win and has used her fight or flight mentality to elevate Syracuse in close games. She continually communicates with teammates and expresses herself with positive body language until the final set ends.

She’s had to deal with more losses in three months than in four years of high school, an obstacle that both Bobbi and Mackenzie say has been the hardest transition to overcome.

But the challenge has helped the two become closer than ever before.

CORRECTION: In a previous version of this article, “Weaver grows from edgy relationship with mother,” Bobbi Weaver’s coaching relationship with Ohio State University was misstated. The Daily Orange regrets this error.

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