The ties that bind the sophomores on the Bonneville High School volleyball team are tight, and they go all the way back to the day Makayla Sorensen was introduced to volleyball.
She was a third grade multi-sport athlete when she first attended a mini camp at the high school and met future club volleyball and Bonneville teammate Alexis McMurtrey. Once camp ended, Sorensen had gained new friends and a new sport that claimed a spot in her life.
“Volleyball has always been my passion,” Sorensen said. “Ever since I started, I’ve been trying to keep getting stronger and be my best. I’ve watched older girls and college players and I want to be like them.”
Fast forward seven years and Sorensen is thriving at the sport she took up at that mini camp. In her second year on varsity with McMurtrey and fellow sophomore Sadie Lott, Sorensen is on track to move into Bonneville’s all-time lists thanks to her second consecutive season of 400-plus kills and 300-plus digs. She finished this season with 490 kills, 44 aces, 315 digs and 41 blocks.
For standing out on a loaded repeat 5A state champion Bonneville team with head-turning statistics and poise that prompted local coaches to call her no ordinary sophomore, Sorensen is the Post Register’s 2017 All-Area Volleyball Player of the Year.
Per the Post Register’s records, Sorensen is the only sophomore besides 2017 Idaho Falls graduate and current St. Louis University outside hitter Maya Taylor to receive this honor.
District 6 coaches of various classifications whose teams played or watched Bonneville this season spoke highly of Sorensen and shared similar observations: ability to play all around, consistency resulting in next to no errors and maturity and skill level beyond her years.
Madison coach Meranda Maestas has had arguably the most opportunity to witness these attributes, as her Bobcats have faced the Bees 11 times the past two seasons. Of the numerous things she said Sorensen does well, Maestas described her serve receive as impeccable.
“I don’t think she knows or realizes how good she is,” Maestas said. “She’s just this quiet presence. She doesn’t stand out to a lot of people until you watch Bonneville play over and over again. She’s a nice girl and does her job and makes it look easy.”
Bonneville coach Chantal McMurtrey said Sorensen has always been a solid passer with a great sense of ball placement. She pinpointed improved strength and velocity as the biggest differences from last year to this year, adding that the maturity has resulted from the years Sorensen has spent with her fellow sophomores.
“Makayla’s pretty much all business, which is part of the reason she’s so successful,” McMurtrey said. “She helps us be better. I think our team is so very balanced overall that it gives her a lot of opportunities to get swings. She can get any kind of ball from anywhere.”
Sorensen was not always an outside hitter. She originally traded off with Alexis McMurtrey at middle blocker and setter to utilize their club team’s 6-2 rotation at the time. Sorensen’s hitting became more powerful with time, prompting coach McMurtrey to switch her to outside hitter in sixth grade.
“I was so excited,” Sorensen said. “I feel like I get to be a leader. You get the adrenaline from hitting.”
As was true at a younger age, Sorensen is still a multi-athlete. Volleyball takes up much of her year, however, with club season not ending until a month before school starts. Her years in the sport have taken her as far away as Orlando, Minneapolis, New Orleans and Dallas and have taught her how to play all around the court and how to handle nerves.
Both those qualities have proven invaluable during the high school seasons.
“As you get more experienced and older, it gets easier to not get as rattled,” Sorensen said. “I’ve learned to just settle down and play our game. I know if I do that, I’ll play to the best of my ability.”
Those statements are also true for Sorensen’s fellow sophomores, with whom she has built years of trust. Coach McMurtrey said playing at a high level at a young age has helped them stay composed under pressure.
“We’ve had a core group of kids and they’ve been able to drive each other further faster,” coach McMurtrey said. “I think they all just have such a good understanding of the game.”
Sorensen confirmed her coach’s observations, adding that they are friends off and on the court and there has never been animosity.
“We all push each other and encourage each other,” Sorensen said.
While Sorensen is on the way to joining Bonneville’s greats, she is also in rare territory skill wise. Coach McMurtrey said Sorensen has progressed quickly, and that attribute has only benefitted from sharing seven-plus years in the same sport with the same teammates.
“She’s been the farthest ahead of anyone we’ve had come into our program,” coach McMurtrey said. “She’s been able to get there faster because of a good supporting cast.”
Sorensen said her biggest goals for her remaining years at Bonneville are to continue looking for ways to elevate her game and ultimately land a volleyball scholarship from a Division I college. Along the way, she is soaking up the moments leading her to those goals: representing Bonneville at state, heartfelt celebrations with her teammates and experiencing euphoria after knocking down an emphatic kill.
“Getting a kill after a long rally is really amazing,” Sorensen said with a smile. “It feels like I have all the power in the world.”