Just days after having to mourn the loss of her favorite glove, Indian River High School senior Makenzie Collins got some much-needed cause for celebration, signing her official NCAA letter of intent to play softball at Averett University last week.
“I guess I’ll have to find a new glove but I was really glad to have my team and my family here with all of my coaches,” Collins said of the event held at IR last Thursday, April 13.
The day had been a long time in the making for Collins, after witnessing former teammates Rachel Hudson and Karlie Smith hold their own signing day a few years ago and aspiring to one day achieve the same.
“I know when Karlie and Rachel signed when I was a freshman, I saw that as motivation,” Collins explained, noting that she, too, hopes to be able to inspire some of her younger teammates. “I just want to be a good role model and mentor for the younger girls. I’d like to really help them get to their best.”
As an Academic All-Conference selection and four-year starter for the Indians at shortstop and third base since joining the team as a freshman, Collins will head to the next level after being awarded Averett’s highest-level scholarship and an additional scholarship for her essay and participation in the school’s Scholarship Day Awards.
“McKenzie is just an all-around player,” said Erika Murphy, who arrived at IR the same year as Collins as the team’s head coach. “She leads by example. She’s the kind of teammate that everyone looks up to.”
Also playing field hockey for the Indians through her junior season, as well as soccer throughout her youth, Collins eventually committed to softball on a year round basis by playing travel ball for the Delaware Storm under coaches Tony Wiley and Matt Elzey.
“I knew I had to be dedicated,” Collins said. “The long practices really paid. From coach Tony hitting the ball as hard as he can at me in practice, Coach Matt keeping me motivated, they’ve really helped me get to where I am today.”
Collins also credited her teammates in her success along the way, including seniors Madi McGee and Sami Mumford, who will also continue their softball careers next season, McGee at Del Tech and Mumford at Salisbury University.
“They always encourage me both on and off the field,” Collins said. “They help me out with anything.”
While getting to the decision-making process hasn’t been easy, finally making a decision presented its own fair of challenges, with Collins weighing her options between schools such as Salisbury and Lynchburg College before finally settling on Averett located in Danville, Va.
“It was down between three schools but the end I just wanted to be able to go away and enjoy the college experience while getting a chance to keep playing softball like I have since I was 8,” Collins said of her decision.
Also factoring into the mix was the chemistry of the team during her visit and here ability to enter the nursing program next year while going for her R.N.
“The coaches were willing to work with nursing majors, which is is going to be helpful and really appealed to me,” she said. “The team was very close together, all of them. They have a good time in practice.”
Next season, Collins will step on campus, new glove and all, hoping to earn a staring spot at shortstop and make an impact for the Cougars.
Before that however, she’ll be aiming to end her career for the Indians by leading the team back to playoffs, for the first time since 2014 — the year this year’s senior class of Collins, McGee, and Mumford first got their careers started.
“This is the first time for the coaching staff to see a class through for four years so it’s pretty bittersweet,” said Murphy. “They came in together, they’ve started together, and they’re going to leave together. The team’s really going to miss them but I think the coaching staff is going to miss them even more.”