Mackenzie-Ruth Rogers made a big impact in her three years at Pioneer.
After transferring from Northwestern, she fit right in at Pioneer and was a team leader from her setter position.
She posted her season yet and helped the Panthers get back to sectional and regional championship glory for the first time since the 2020 state championship season. This year’s titles were won in Class 2A.
Rogers graduated from Pioneer at midterm and is headed out West soon to join her college volleyball team at Vanguard University.
Vanguard is a private Christian school located in Costa Mesa, California in Orange County, which is just south of Los Angeles.
The Lions went 29-2 and made it to the Great Eight of the NAIA National Tournament this year. They are making a move to NCAA Division II starting next season.
Rogers said she’s excited to be joining the Vanguard volleyball program.
“I went out there on a visit and I love the coach, I love the team, I love the environment,” she said. “It’s super far away but I’m excited for the adventure that’s coming. God placed this in my life. Yes, it’s sad that I’m leaving and all this stuff. It’s kind of all surreal. It’s really true when you go visit a campus and meet a team and a coach, when you know you really know, you really feel it in your heart. I just really felt that when I went out there.
“My dad and I went out there in April this year and visited and it was just insanely different from Indiana 100%, but totally something that I’m looking forward to experience. It’s a completely different world out there but I’m so excited.”
Pioneer coach Rod Nies expects Rogers to succeed at Vanguard.
“She’s got a lot of upswing at her next level, I believe. Mackenzie is just going to be I think a dominant player at the next level,” Nies said. “She’s probably one of the most athletic kids I’ve ever had and I’ve had some great athletes here. She really just learned how to hit this past year where she was one of our go-to players. In years past we used her as a hitter but this year she was one of our main hitters. I ran her opposite of [Brooklyn] Borges so that way I always had one of those two big hammers in the front row and it worked out pretty well. I ran that three middle, three setter attack and it just worked out really well for us offensively.”
Rogers fit in seamlessly at Pioneer. This year’s team in particularly was a team that fit really well together.
It was a team of all-around standouts who all love the sport of volleyball. The Lady Panthers went 24-14 and made a run to the semi-state in Class 2A.
Rogers is a repeat selection as the Pharos-Tribune’s Loganland Volleyball Player of the Year. The 6-foot senior led the Panthers in assists (361), kills (269) and blocks (42) and was second in digs (344). She had 1,325 career assists in three years at Pioneer despite the Panthers running a 6-2 or 6-3 offense during that time.
This year the Panthers ran a three middle, three setter offense, which seemingly fit Rogers and the team perfectly.
“We just have so many players that can play every position,” Rogers said. “It’s really unique because a lot of teams don’t have a bunch of people that can play a bunch of positions, but we’re all pretty versatile. This just worked for us because me and Blair [Grigsby] and Keirsten [Nies] were the three setters and Brooklyn [Borges], Kiley [Attinger] and Liz [Rance] were technically the middles but obviously we all played everywhere. I played outside, right side, middle, I set. Blair played some back row and set. We were all kind of everywhere so that’s probably why it’s unique and a lot of teams got confused, but it worked in our favor. I think it’s rare to have seven people that can all play different positions. It’s unique and weird but it really worked for us.”
The Panthers swept HNAC competition again. They have now won 37 conference matches in a row and haven’t lost a league match since 2018 Class 2A state champion North Judson knocked them off. The Panthers are 64-1 all-time in HNAC volleyball matches.
They went on to win their first sectional title in three years and first-ever regional title in Class 2A. They had to beat previously undefeated South Central and a Churubusco team with an IU recruit to do so.
But they met their match at the semi-state when they lost to No. 1-ranked Muncie Burris, which didn’t drop a single set during its tournament run which concluded with a state-record 23rd state championship.
But Rogers was happy with the Panthers’ showing. She was at Northwestern her freshman year when the Panthers won a state championship, so the sectional and regional titles were the first of her high school career.
“It was a great way to end this year especially not making it out of sectionals these past couple years just going out with a run was really exciting for all of us,” she said. “Not just for the seniors but for Keirsten, she’s kind of like our adopted senior. She has been with us forever. It was nice for all of us to go on that final run together and I’m just really glad we made it to semi-state because that’s an accomplishment in itself, especially being in 2A. I’m just really proud of everything we pushed through and challenged and didn’t let what anybody had to say about us dictate our ending to the season. I think we proved a lot of people wrong and that was our goal for this season.”
Coach Nies thought it was a situation where if the Panthers could have won a close first set like they did against Churubusco, 26-24, they would have had a good shot at winning the fourth and fifth set and advancing as they did in the regional final. But instead they dropped a close first set against Burris, 25-23, in the semi-state final.
“I really wish we could have took that first set against Muncie Burris. I think things would have ended differently for us. I think we would have been making a trip down to the State Finals if we could have won that first set because it would have gave my girls all kinds of confidence,” coach Nies said.
The following are capsules of the rest of the All-Loganland team.
Brooklyn Borges, Pioneer
Borges posted another solid season for the Panthers.
She did so while coming off a torn ACL and meniscus in her right knee while playing basketball for the Panthers on Nov. 30 of last year. The injury was bad enough she had surgery on both knees, as doctors took part of her patella tendon and bone on her left knee to repair her injured right knee.
Less than nine months later she was back on the court for the start of the season for the Pioneer volleyball team. The 6-foot senior middle hitter finished second on the Panthers in kills right behind Rogers with 262. She was also second in blocks (35). She had 801 kills and 143 blocks for her career.
“Brooklyn, she was a real force last year at the end of her junior year. That knee injury really set her back,” coach Nies said. “But she came back strong. She’s going to be playing at Ohio Christian and she’ll be mentoring under Madison Blickenstaff again. That’s going to be a really nice 1-2 punch over there for that small college. Those two girls can really play the game of volleyball. And Brooklyn is only going to get better and better now with her knee pretty much being back to where it should be.
“The sky is the limit for her. I think she’s going to be an incredibly great player at that next level.”
Addie Cripe, Pioneer
The Panthers’ senior libero led them in digs with 437. She had 934 digs for her career. She was also second on the team in service points (296) and serve reception (365).
“We made some nice runs when she was back there serving,” coach Nies said. “When Addie was playing her game and being the libero that I know she was capable of being, we were really tough back there. She made us a much better team just with her defensive grit and her ability to anticipate and read hitters. She did a great job for me.
“Addie is a great little player. She did approach me and she’s talked about maybe trying to walk on down at IUK. She’s going to go to college down at IUK and she’s talked about trying to walk on there and playing which she’s very capable of doing.”
Alexa Finke, Caston
Finke has been right in the middle of the Comets’ success in volleyball as a middle hitter.
The senior led the Comets in blocks (53) and was second in kills (223) this season.
The Comets went 24-8 this year and are the midst of their most successful seasons in program history. They went 25-8 last year and 21-11 the year before. They went 12-17 in 2020.
“Alexa has continued to grow in her game over the past two seasons and played her best volleyball this year,” Caston coach Gina Hierlmeier said. “She led us in blocking, an area of focus for us this year, and when she was on I knew we would be tough to beat.”
Maci Garland, Cass
Garland, a 5-7 senior, led the Kings in kills (199) and aces (47) and was second in digs (168).
The Kings went 11-16, a six-win improvement from last season.
“Maci Garland was an outstanding four-year varsity player for us,” Cass coach Katie Cowell said. “She took on a big role early on in her career and handled the pressure very well. She was a great all-around player for us. She was a great leader and our go-to player in tight situations.”
Blair Grigsby, Pioneer
The 5-6 senior was a solid all-around player for the Panthers.
She posted 172 kills and 269 service points for the season. She had 555 assists and 564 digs for her career.
“Blair was part of my three setter attack,” coach Nies said. “It was kind of a goofy offense but it worked for us. It caused a lot of confusion for the other team because they didn’t know who was setting in some rotations that we had. It really threw a lot of teams whenever one of these girls would be up in the front row and they would attack on two, it would catch a lot of teams off guard. Blair did a nice job.
“She’s been a huge contributor to this program the last few years. She’s great little player and once again will be greatly missed. This whole crew will be.”
Abbey Hileman, Cass
Hileman, a 6-foot senior, led the Kings in blocks (46) and was second in kills (162).
“Abbey Hileman is a special person. She has the heart of gold and is the best teammate,” Cowell said. “She worked so hard and became a completely different player for us this season. She became a threat at the net and someone we could count on.”
Macee Hinderlider, Caston
Hinderlider led the Comets in kills (291), digs (240) and aces (71) and was second in blocks (32).
“Macee was dominant on the offensive side of the ball this year. If we needed to make a play her number was called,” Hierlmeier said. “What impressed me the most about her was her improvement defensively to become a complete volleyball player.”
Piper Link, Winamac
Link, a 5-8 senior, was second on the Warriors in digs (90) and kills (47). She had 284 digs and 154 kills for her career.
She was also an IHSVCA All-Academic Gold level recipient this year (3.7 or higher GPA).
“She’s the most determined player Winamac has had since Maggie Smith,” Winamac coach Heather Kasten said. “She played until the very last play of every last point. She was second on the team in digs and kills and I could never take her off the floor. She’s a smart player and was often able to change our momentum when we needed it.”
Haley Miller, Cass
The 5-8 senior was second on the Kings in assists (239) and aces (33) and third in kills (145) and digs (150).
“Haley Miller is that hard working type of athlete you want on your team,” Cowell said. “She can play any position and can do it very well. She was the glue that held our team together by filling multiple needed roles on our team. She’s a tough, competitive player.”
Keirsten Nies, Pioneer
The 5-8 junior setter led the Panthers in service points (375) and aces (69) and was second in assists (342) while adding 97 kills and 306 digs.
“When you have three really good setters and all threw of them can hit, it gave us a lot of versatility,” coach Nies said. “It was a lot of fun to watch when we were playing well. Those three setters all through their high school careers they hit but they weren’t the main hitters. This year they got that opportunity to be a big part of the offense. Keirsten did a great job. She did a nice job blocking on that right side. She hits really well on the right side.
“I’m looking for huge things out of her next year. Her level of play is going to have to elevate and I think she’s up for the challenge. I talked to her about next year, I said ‘do you want to soften up the schedule a little bit, maybe drop a couple of those big tournaments and get in some smaller tournaments?’ She goes, ‘nah, let’s just go ahead and play.’ She’s a gamer. She understands what I want. She understands when she’s in the gym I’m her coach and when we walk off that floor I become her dad.
“It was very satisfying and a great experience for me to get one of those sectional wins and a big regional win with her. It was a very special moment. It’s something that I will cherish until the day I die. It was a lot of fun. It was kind of reminiscent with the times that I had with my stepdaughter Cortney, who of course is now the head coach at Logansport.
Corryn Overway, Logansport
The Berries’ senior libero led them in perfect passes in serve receive and read the ball extremely well off of big hitters.
The Berries went 15-15 and were one of the most improved teams in the state.
Isabel Scales, Caston
Scales was second on the Comets in digs (238) and third in kills (207) and blocks (31).
“Isabel is just a pure athlete that allows her to do things on the volleyball court that others can’t,” Hierlmeier said. “She made plays when I didn’t think there was one. She is was our most consistent player overall.
“All three girls played all the way around, rarely coming off the floor.”
Teagan Wolf, Logansport
The 5-4 sophomore led the Berries in kills all season and made some extremely impressive digs because of her quick feet.
Logansport coach Cortney Long talked about her first-team selections Overway and Wolf.
“Both are stellar players. They showed up every game and gave their all. They have a little bit of fire under them too and I love that about them,” she said. “I’m thankful I have Teagan for two more years. She’s going to be one of my star players, she already is, but I’m excited to see her bloom and become even better. The sky is the limit for that girl.”