High School Sports

Bluffton's Cooler heralded as one of nation's top volleyball players

The mail won't stop for Mackenzie Cooler. But she's still stopping to enjoy every minute.

A Bluffton High School freshman, Cooler has been selected by PrepVolleyball.com as one of the top 25 freshmen in the country -- she is the only volleyball player from South Carolina to crack the list.

Suddenly, college coaches are taking notice. Cooler estimates she receives at least one or two letters from interested colleges every day.

"I saw my name on the list the day it came out, and I was shocked," Cooler said. "...It's all been pretty cool. I know all my hard work has paid off."

At first glance, it becomes clear why Cooler stands out as one of the nation's best prospects for her class -- she's 6-foot tall with still a couple of years to grow.

It took more, however, to make PrepVolleyball.com's prestigious group. The website asks coaches to submit entries and reminds them a freshman must have made a massive impact on her team to be considered.

Cooler certainly did that.

Despite her freshman status, Cooler has two years of varsity experience, and she led the Bobcats in kills both seasons. She also led the Bobcats in assists and blocks last fall while earning the team's MVP award and a selection to the All-Region 7-AAA team.

She spent time playing outside hitter, middle hitter and even setter. It's that versatility that her high school and travel team coach, Al Stern, believes makes her stand out.

Their Low Country Volleyball Club's 18 Power Team is participating in a tournament in Orlando this weekend. It will be missing its two setters, Melissa Damas and Ciara Lelie. Stern subbed in Cooler in a mid-week practice and said the team's lineup didn't miss a beat.

"It didn't faze her one bit," Stern said. "She can do it all, and that only helps. A 6-foot setter would be really attractive to a college."

Stern said he expected a couple of colleges -- Tulane and Winthrop -- to be in attendance for this weekend's tournament.

Cooler said many of the letters she has received have been from major Division I programs, including Purdue and Illinois. Although she still has three years to make her decision for the next level, she suddenly can't help but dream big.

"I've always really wanted to play for the University of Florida," Cooler said. "But I'm pretty open. I'll make a decision for whatever fits best."

MACKENZIE COOLER FILE

School: Bluffton High School

Year: Freshman

Height: 6-0

Position: Outside Hitter/Middle Hitter/Setter

Kills: 387

Blocks: 56

Assists: 364

(Statistics are from 2010 season)

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