Her bio reads Elmhurst, Ill., but her hometown may as well be listed Charleston, S.C.
“My family has been talking about moving [to South Carolina] for a while,” she said. “And I’ve been visiting here a lot since I was really little.”
The player is freshman South Carolina volleyball left-side hitter McKenzie Moorman, whose family officially moved to the Lowcountry after she enrolled in Columbia.
“It feels good because I feel like I can really call South Carolina home now, especially ‘cause my family is here,” Moorman said. “I think playing volleyball here has made it feel even more like home.”
For the Gamecocks this season, Moorman had 51 kills, eight blocks and a .339 hitting average in the 24 sets she played.
The Gamecocks — 19-11 and 11-7 in the SEC after its regular season — will face Colorado State (29-1, 18-0 Mountain West) on Friday in Seattle in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.
Moorman’s journey home was unique. Rather than the coaching staff finding the recruit, Moorman reached out to South Carolina’s previous coaching staff. Assistant coach Shonda Cole Wallace, who is the only staff member retained from the previous regime, was Moorman’s point of contact.
“Normally we see kids early on, with McKenzie, she actually emailed us a few days before we had camp in the summer,” Cole Wallace said. “We had never seen her. We had never heard of her name. We do know some of her club directors. [McKenzie] said she was going to be attending one of our summer camps. She sent video and we were very impressed.
“A lot of times, the highlight film doesn’t always match what shows up in your gym. When she showed up and started playing, we were very impressed and were like, ‘This never happens. We have to make sure we get on this kid.’ It was a strange recruiting process.”
Halfway through the season, Moorman had seen very little playing time, but the coaching staff wanted to reassure her she hadn’t gone unnoticed.
“We see what you’re doing. We see the growth that you’re making,” the coaching staff told her. “It’s only a matter of time before your number is called.”
Her number was called on Oct. 25 against Tennessee and Moorman ran with the opportunity. She had five kills on 11 swings and two blocks and helped the team to a sweep of the Vols.
Two days later she made her first career start. And what a start it was.
Moorman had 12 kills on 17 errorless swings to hit an insane .706 while chipping in three blocks, including a solo block, to lead the team to another SEC sweep. It was the highest hitting percentage by any Gamecock with double-figure kills since 2017 and third-highest hitting percentage (minimum 15 attacks) in the program’s rally-scoring era (since 2001).
“She got a couple of opportunities to get in games, and it didn’t look like the moment was too big for her. Sometimes either players get passive or you can just tell they get that blank stare, that deer in the headlights look, and I think she handled that really well,” head coach Tom Mendoza said. “That’s a good sign for now and a good sign for her entire career here. She seems to handle those moments and not get overwhelmed. She’s shown that consistency.”
Her back-to-back standout performances earned her SEC Freshman of the Week. Moorman found out from a text from fellow freshman Camilla Corvas.
“I saw it on social media, and I took a screenshot of it, and sent it to the freshman group chat and was like, ‘Kenzi you’re amazing,’” Corvas said. “… I thought she knew already.”
The biggest adjustment for Moorman was that she stopped worrying about making mistakes.
“I think the biggest thing for me is I stopped being so afraid to make mistakes. Going into the game, especially when I was younger, and at club and in high school, I was always worried about making a mistake and fear of getting taken out,” Moorman said. “The biggest thing is you have to just keep going at this level and you have to be aggressive. Even if you do get blocked, you need to get back up there and take another big swing.
“When I just go out on the court, with no fear, things work out for me.”
“She’s taken some swings that don’t look like freshman swings,” Cole Wallace said. “I think this year is preparing her for the role she may take on next year.”