Del Norte

On the Rise — Curtis embraces a new challenge this offseason

Ray Hamill/ – Del Norte’s McKenna Curtis in action for the Warriors last season.

By Ray Hamill — The rest of the Big 5 will have their hands full this fall.

Reigning league volleyball MVP McKenna Curtis of Del Norte appears determined to close out her high school career with a bang and has been focusing all of her attention on doing so.

This year, the two-sport star sacrificed a spring on the softball diamond to better prepare herself for volleyball and the jump to the college game a year from now.

And she did it by playing five months for The Rise National 18U team out of Medford, one of the most respected travel team programs on the West Coast.

After her MVP season in 2022, Curtis made the decision to play travel volleyball for the first time this year and considered several teams in Oregon, even taking a road trip to try out for a few of them.

That road trip, however, didn’t take as long as expected.

“The first team I tried out for was the Rise,” Curtis said, before adding with a chuckle, “I really liked the team, and I didn’t even go to a second one.”

Playing with such a well-respected club wasn’t the only challenge a determined Curtis faced head on this offseason.

Instead of playing with girls her own age on the 17U Rise team, she instead opted to play for the program’s 18U team.

And it was a move that paid off.

“I decided to go with the 18U team even though I knew I wouldn’t get as much playing time,” Curtis said. “Despite not playing as much, I knew I would get a lot better playing with the 18U.”

That’s the sort of challenge Curtis seems to relish.

One of the main reasons she played travel volleyball this year was because she wants to play the sport in college, and while she is bound to have multiple suitors she wants to find a school where she will be challenged.

The soon-to-be senior still has plenty of time to weigh her college options and is considering some Division-III and NAIA programs in Oregon, as well as some of the top community college programs in California.

Submitted photo – McKenna Curtis (1) and her Rise teammates.

“I have been touring some colleges for the past few months, and with the travel team I got a lot of exposure,” she said. “I’ll probably go to a junior college for two years and hopefully go to a four-year after that if I still want to play, and I’m pretty sure I will.

“My goal is to go somewhere where I know I can be pushed and challenged.”

The Rise did exactly that, and Curtis says she not only enjoyed playing with her new teammates but she also benefited from their experience.

“I would say I gained a lot of experience with the mental side of volleyball, and getting to read the court more,” she said. “And getting to defend against hitters that are going to really good (colleges).

“It was fun. I think just getting to play with girls I knew were way better is probably the best thing I could have had. And getting to talk to the girls about the college recruiting process.”

The Rise competed from January to May and traveled to tournaments up and down the West Coast as well as in Utah and Ohio.

It was at a national tournament in Ohio that Curtis faced her biggest challenge of the season.

Ray Hamill/

After playing as a defensive specialist for the Rise for much of the year, Curtis was asked to play setter for the tournament and given just two weeks to prepare for the new position.

“They said ‘McKenna, we need you to set,’ and I said ‘okay’ and went in and set,” she said with a chuckle. “That was another good experience playing for them, getting to be out of my comfort zone.”

With the summer winding down, Curtis is now turning her attention to her senior year at Del Norte and she wants to close out her high school career with a bang.

An experienced Warriors team is returning nine players from last year’s league championship roster and will be the favorites to win the Big 5 again.

But that’s not all Curtis believes this team is capable of.

“I’m hoping to repeat last year (in league) and we want to go further in the NCS than we did last year,” she said. “I think we can do better, especially now that we got a look at teams down south.”

Submitted photo – McKennas Curtis in action for the Rise earlier this year.

Curtis is coached at Del Norte by her mother Meagan Curtis and assistant coaches Debbie, Pablo and Petra Lorenzi, who all bring a wealth of experience coaching the sport.

“It’s an experience, I’ll give you that,” McKenna said with a chuckle of playing for her mother. “Having the other coaches, that has helped me out a lot. I basically come to them with all my volleyball issues and go to my mom with all my life issues.”

McKenna also paid tribute to her mother for helping instill in her a love for volleyball.

“I’ve kind of grown up with it,” she said of the sport. “Ever since I was little my mom has coached and I just remember always watching games from the stands, and just being around it a lot has given me a lot of exposure to it.”

She says one of the things she loves about volleyball is that it is such a team oriented sport, where every player on the court has to play in perfect unison in order for the team to succeed.

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