SARASOTA — Keri McMahon plays for her family — both her real family and extended family.
The Cardinal Mooney High sophomore outside hitter plays for her older sister, Hanna, who taught her the importance of being a team player. And she’s playing for her teammates, who have stood beside her through the season’s ups and downs.
In her second season with the Cougars, McMahon has developed a unique chemistry with her teammates — one she hopes will carry the team deep into the regional tournament.
“It’s been amazing,” McMahon says. “I don’t want this season to end. We’re just like a family on and off of the court. We play together as one big unit. We’ve all grown individually and as a team, and we want to be able to show that on the court.”
McMahon and her teammates secured a berth in the regional tournament with a 3-0 victory over Bradenton Christian in the Class 3A-District 10 semifinals Oct. 22. With the win, the top-seeded Cougars advance to the district championship Oct. 24, when they will face rival The Out-of-Door Academy.
Cardinal Mooney swept all of its regular season district games and is playing some of its best volleyball down the stretch — something McMahon credits to the team’s ability to form a unified front on and off the court.
“We’re capable of anything that we believe in,” McMahon says. “We know the teams we can beat, and if we have that mindset going in — that we are capable of anything we believe in — then it’s ours to do. I think we are capable of winning districts.”
McMahon began playing volleyball when she was 7 years old, after her older sister started playing.
She began playing for the Suncoast Volleyball Club of Sarasota before transitioning last year to the Coastline Volleyball Club, which is run by Cardinal Mooney’s head coach, Kristen Batt.
McMahon made the Lady Cougars varsity squad as a freshman and spent a year playing alongside her sister — an experience that helped mold her into the player she is today.
“I loved it,” McMahon says. “I knew if I ever got down that she would be right there to pick me up. I knew I would be able to play with her for a year before she went off to college, and it was amazing.”
With her sister moving on to play volleyball for Jacksonville State University, McMahon took it upon herself to be a role model for her teammates.
Although she may have only had a full year of varsity experience under her belt, McMahon refused to let the pressure get to her. Instead, McMahon relied on her instincts and the skills she developed over the past eight years to carry her this season.
And her hard work appears to be paying off at the right time.
McMahon has 46 kills, 32 digs and 13 blocks so far this season, while helping lead the Cougars to a 12-9 record and a berth in the regional tournament.
“Coming into this year, I wanted to take charge and be a leader,” McMahon says. “I know what I’m capable of and expected, so it’s up to me to prove that not only to myself, but my teammates, as well.”
“Keri is the player every coach would love to have,” Batt says. “Though Keri is still a young player, she brings a level of maturity to the court. She is a leader and role model on and off the court and has grown so much as a player and individual over the last year. She gives 110% all the time and works hard to get better.”
Following this season, McMahon will return to Coastline in preparation for her final two seasons at Cardinal Mooney.
But McMahon doesn’t plan on walking away from the court after high school. With her mother, Kim, and sister both having played college volleyball, McMahon has aspirations of following in their footsteps.
McMahon doesn’t know where she’ll play just yet, but there’s one school that she’s had her eye on for quite sometime — Georgetown. McMahon has aspirations of being in the CIA, and playing in Washington, D.C., would allow her to be close to the government and her dream job, while allowing her to continue playing the sport she loves.
“I wouldn’t be able to just stop,” McMahon says. “It’s too big a part of my life to stop then.”
Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].