Although the Coronado volleyball team has found success the past four years, the Cougars - who find themselves in the mix for a 5A state championship over and over again - tend to fly under the radar in the Pikes Peak region with 4A volleyball dynasty in Lewis-Palmer down the road.
But that doesn’t bother senior outside hitter Mara Abernethy, who was selected The Gazette Preps 5A-4A Volleyball Peak Performer of the Year.
“I think we are OK with flying under the radar because it gives us a better chance to develop as a team and really get to know each other, and work hard when we're not under a huge spotlight,” Abernethy said.
With 755 kills, a .349 hitting percentage and 261 total blocks through her varsity career, Abernethy has been key in Coronado’s constant success in arguably the state’s most challenging classification. She values the bond she has with her teammates on the court above the program’s success.
She even says her favorite memory from the season is a match she didn’t play in.
“I was hurt with an ankle injury and we were playing Douglas County,” Abernethy recalled. “We were really excited to play them, and I remember being so excited watching on the bench because we lost the first set, but the we came back and won it. I was so proud of our effort and with all of the people moving around in the lineups.”
Coronado players joined forces as part of an intense middle school rivalry - Holmes and Jenkins Middle Schools, which Abernethy believes is why the Cougars have made it to the state playoffs seven of the past eight seasons.
“We just have a culture of hard work and we foster younger kids and we like to create those bonds between varsity and JV and C Squad,” Abernethy said. “I think that’s really helped us build the next generation year after year after year.”
As for her own success, Abernethy said her early days playing volleyball were awkward thanks to a big growth spurt in middle school.
“One year in middle school I grew like 6 inches, so I had no idea where my limbs were, and I was constantly like, ‘Oh my gosh, like what am I doing,’” Abernethy said.
But she joined a club volleyball team, where she had more gym time and access to coaches, and she began gaining more control of her 6-foot-1 frame.
“I was finally like, wow, this might actually be an advantage,” she said.
Since then, Abernethy, who signed to play at the University of Denver, has been a constant source of power on the court. She had 214 kills and an impressive .389 hitting percentage in 2017, and had 64 total blocks.
And there’s no sign of her slowing down at DU.